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Aaron Flint, king of conservative MT radio, talks Black Lives Matter and the censure of Rep. Zooey Zephyr
Plus: Tomorrow's mayoral candidates forum is SOLD OUT!
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On the radio waves of Montana, no conservative speaks louder than the commentator Aaron Flint. A former staffer for Republican politicians including now-Governor Gianforte and US Representative Zinke, Flint hosts the popular show Montana Talks. The show runs every weekday morning, and is broadcast by two dozen stations across the state.
On the air—as well as on Twitter—Flint dives headfirst into culture war debates, delivering barbed commentary on events both Montana-based and national in scope. (He additionally serves as a Lt. Colonel in the US Army Reserve.)
During the past few months, Flint has regularly set his sights on the contentious events surrounding the censure, this April, of the transgender Democratic state Representative Zooey Zephyr. He regularly describes the protest that occurred in the state Capitol building as a “transurrection” and labels the participants as “radical transgender activists.”
Like many of you, I often find Flint’s language inflammatory; some people have described it as “hateful.” (I’ve also written, at length, that I found the GOP’s response to Rep. Zephyr’s graphic language on the House floor—the instigating event that led to her censure—to be nothing short of cowardly. I also believe that some Montana conservatives regularly conflated violence with protest in their response to Rep. Zephyr’s actions.)
Yet the fact remains that Aaron Flint is a public figure with a big microphone. Many Montanans listen to what he has to say, and put stock in it. He has years of experience in his role, and holds an intimate and singular perspective on the workings of conservative politics in a conservative state. I wanted to hear how he would substantiate his own rhetoric in our conversation.
With that in mind, read on as Flint and I discuss how attending Howard, a historically black university, shaped his approach to Black Lives Matter rhetoric, why he thinks former Governor Schweitzer is getting back in the fray with a series of media appearances (including on Montana Talks) and why he decries the protests surrounding the censure of Representative Zooey Zephyr.
As you’ll read below, I pushed back on some of Flint’s claims during the interview; other instances of fact-checking occurred afterwards. Those are noted in italics.
Max: What drew you to Howard University?
Aaron Flint: I've lived all over the place. When I moved from Glasgow, Montana, out to Illinois, just south of Chicago, at high school I was a minority and I played basketball and football. I'd be the only white kid out there.
[Later, at another high school, in Colorado, a student mentioned that she] was going to tour Howard University. I was like, oh, man, that's a great idea, I should apply to Howard. It's in DC and it's got a great reputation. I was really into Meet the Press back when Tim Russert was the host. I was really interested in politics, and always knew I wanted to go into broadcasting. I remember friends that I played basketball with had Howard sweatshirts.
So I threw an application in, and then later that year, my senior year of high school, I did the Washington Close Up program. When I [was accepted to Howard] I sold everything I owned—which pretty much amounted to my ‘78 Monte Carlo that I painted myself—and flew to DC. I ended up waiting tables downtown and started working on Capitol Hill a little bit. And then 9/11 happened, and that's what got me back to Montana.
Did your experience attending an HBCU inform your perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement, and how folks talk about race, specifically in Montana?
It couldn't help but shape my viewpoint. I hope that I was able to bring more of a perspective to the table than just the typical left-versus-right conversations that you'd see in the national media.
I remember going to the BLM protests in downtown Billings, and there was some white kid with a sign that said “BIPOC believe we should defund the police.” And I'm like, what do you even know about that? And what the heck is BIPOC, anyway? Who are you to sit here and say what black Indigenous people of color have to say? The way that we constantly divide people along racial lines, I think, is disgusting.
Here's some white kid on a street corner in Billings saying, oh, Indigenous people want to defund the police. Wait a minute. The Northern Cheyenne tribal leaders are calling for more law enforcement on the reservation.
Just because you saw some TikTok video or some reel on Facebook, now you think you're cool and you think you speak for people of color?
I just have to laugh when I look at some of these white liberal kids—many of them who've come from very privileged backgrounds—who think that all of a sudden, they care more about people than the rest of us do. They don't even have the first clue what's going on out here.
Of your recent coverage, your framing of the events surrounding the censure of Representative Zephyr is perhaps where we disagree the most. Considering that your term “transurrection” has a connotation of the insurrection at the US Capitol, what do you make of those events in DC?
I think most of us criticized the rioting that took place on January 6th. We thought it was disgusting. We thought they should have had more security in place that day. But the DC mayor refused additional security. Speaker Pelosi, who oversaw Capitol security, refused additional security and National Guard troops. [Note: This claim is widely disputed].
I think it was a blatant failure, and it was shameful, just like the hundreds of BLM riots that took place, and the destruction that took place, all across America..
Those same people who always want to talk January 6th, they refuse to condemn the actions that took place in the Montana Capitol.
I think any reasonable Montanan would look at January 6th and say it's disgusting. I think they would also say, “Hey, hats off to Montana Capitol officials, the Sergeant at Arms Office and the Montana speaker, because they had intelligence that showed that these radical transgender activists were gonna be up to something and they were gonna get out of hand at the Capitol.”
[Note: As I confirmed with Flint in a follow-up email, he was referring to an interview that he conducted with Montana Speaker Matt Regier, where the latter cites the existence of this intelligence. I listened to the interview, but couldn’t find much evidence to support his claim beyond a passing reference to the existence of said intelligence.]
They had enough security there that day to stop it. And so you had these radical transgender activists throwing things on the floor of the House. They were tussling with law enforcement. They were disrupting the democratic process.
[Note: The seven defendants were charged solely with criminal trespassing; those charges were all dismissed.]
Weren’t they just throwing pieces of cloth from the gallery? [I misspoke; it was actually latex gloves.] That may be obnoxious, but I struggle to see it as an act that constitutes violence.
Yeah. But it's about, what message does that send? Those young teenage pages that were on the floor, they didn't know what was being thrown at them. They didn't know what was going to happen next. They were very afraid of what was going to happen that day. We've got to set a precedent that this is not going to be tolerated. Otherwise you have things like January 6th that do take place and that do occur.
I remember a time when you could walk into the US Capitol and walk around your United States capitol. You can't do that anymore. I want Montana to be the capitol you can still walk into and talk to your lawmakers without eight layers of security.
Creating antics like that, it puts things at risk.
The other thing I would say is, imagine if that was a group of Second Amendment protesters who were yelling and shouting and throwing things at lawmakers on the floor and banging on the antique doors to enter the House gallery. I think we all know how that would play out.
And if local prosecutors—like the county attorney in Lewis and Clark County [Kevin Downs], who's related to former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock—declined to press charges against them, we all know that the Biden Justice Department's attorney would go in and press charges against them.
Oh, one other thing I wanted to say. I saw you did an interview with [Paul Kim], one of the guys who was arrested?
Was that the same guy who criticized the guy that was throwing t-shirts on the floor at Target? They were the Pride display t-shirts. For some reason that was a big deal, but throwing stuff on the floor of the House of Representatives was not a big deal.
I also found it interesting that he had to make a point to point out the race of the man who was throwing the t-shirts on the floor. He said, this white man. And I was like, wow, that's pretty racist of you. What does race have to do with this?
I remember the video of that confrontation. But I don't know offhand what Paul said, so I can't really respond to that one. [Note: I found Kim’s tweet after my interview with Flint]. You've used this term a couple of times, “transgender activists.” Who exactly are you referring to there?
Actually, I use a third word, too. I will refer to Representative Zephyr and that clan as “radical transgender activists.” And I think it's important that you put that term “radical” in there. I think there are folks in the LGBTQ—whatever letters you want to add to the alphabet—acronym there who do not agree whatsoever with this radical transgender push by Zooey Zephyr and some of these others, targeting little kids, getting little kids to make a decision that they can't take back that permanently alters the rest of their lives, sterilizing these kids, removing healthy body parts.
A few things to note here:
In a follow-up email, I asked Flint for evidence of this “targeting;” if, for instance, there was evidence that Rep. Zephyr had utilized PSA's, or had had speaking engagements at schools. He responded: “Zephyr’s entire focus at the legislature and public remarks were focused on pushing this on kids—that's the targeting.” That’s demonstrably false. Rep. Zephyr has made public comments and sponsored bills on subjects beyond the rights of trans people, and I’ve found no evidence of Rep. Zephyr “pushing” this rhetoric beyond the mere act of verbalizing her concerns.
For context, according to Reuters, in 2021, about 42,000 minors received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, almost three times as many than in 2017. Reuters’ data shows that in 2021, about 1,400 minors initiated puberty blocker treatment and about 4,200 initiated hormone therapy. Hormone therapy and puberty blockers have been shown to be largely reversible.
The same report found that gender affirming surgeries are relatively rare. 282 minors underwent a mastectomy in 2021. A related analysis of insurance claims concluded that “56 genital surgeries among patients ages 13 to 17 with a prior gender dysphoria diagnosis” occurred between 2019 and 2021.
I've got friends who are Democrats, I've got friends who are liberals, and even they'll say that what the Montana Democrat Party's embracing right now is nuts.
In terms of the transgender care targeting minors, the Defund the Police movement, the open southern borders.
Look at Great Falls, Montana. It used to be a Democrat Party stronghold. I saw that you interviewed former Governor Brian Schweitzer. You had the same question that a lot of people are asking: what is motivating Governor Brian Schweitzer to speak out right now?
I think he is looking at the Montana Democrat Party and the train wreck that was legislative Democrats, and he's saying, what are you guys doing? Brian Schweitzer kind of saved the Montana Democrat Party in the early 2000’s. And then Democrats just basically have destroyed anything that Brian Schweitzer put back on life support.
He talked about the working class [in the interview], but I also would've been interested in his take on this radical transgender agenda. I think it's been a huge, huge embarrassment for the Montana Democrat Party.
Aaron, is there anything you want to add before we wrap up?
Whether it's Representative Zooey Zephyr, or frankly anybody else out there that we've talked about today, I have an open invite for them to join us on the radio show. I've given that invite before. I've sent an email, I've put it out on Twitter, I've said it on the radio. I'm gonna be polite with anybody who's on the show. Everybody who comes on the show, they get a chance to say their piece.
The best part of the show is when we take phone calls from folks all across Montana. What you find is people have more respect for you when you get out there and you take those calls from everyday Montanans as well.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
One more thing…
The mayoral candidates forum tomorrow is SOLD OUT! If you have RSVP’d but cannot attend, please email me so we can give your tickets to folks on the wait list!
Look out for a recap of the event in next week’s newsletter!
Thanks so much for being here. In the meantime, you can always reach me via email, the comment section below, or on the Elon Machine, @SavageLevenson.