After videos spread last Tuesday of union protesters pulling down tents belonging to Americans for Prosperity, union member Tom Duckworth claimed he'd seen a man connected to AFP pull down the tents. I spoke to the man Duckworth identified last Friday. He called the accusation a "big lie."
Last Tuesday, union protesters in Lansing, MI tore down two tents belonging to Americans for Prosperity and threw punches at Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. Obviously, this didn't make their cause look very good: enter Tom Duckworth. Tom told the pro-union group Progress Michigan that he saw the tents being taken down by a man connected to AFP. He described the man responsible as wearing "an NRA jacket and an NRA baseball cap on."
Last Friday I spoke by phone to the man in the NRA cap. His name is Paul Hales. Paul is an activist who belongs to a number of Tea Party organizations. He also supports several conservative groups, including the Heritage Foundation, Mackinac Center, AFP, and of course the NRA.
I asked him if he was the person wearing the NRA jacket and cap. "That's correct. And I never saw anyone else out there with an NRA jacket or an NRA cap." With that out of the way, I'll let Paul set the scene:
I'm out there in support of labor freedom and of course we had the same tents we had the first week. They left them right up for the whole week. So we were just doing the things that we always do. We were promoting labor freedom. We had literature out that we handed out to people. Of course we did have security and they were asking people if you come into the tent 'Who do you support?' and 'What do you support?' And obviously I think a few people got in who lied, but the biggest lie was what you saw in that [Progress Michigan] video. That big lie is right out of Alinsky's Rules for Radicals playbook. You accuse your opponent of exactly what you yourself just did.
In order to nail down all the elements of the story I asked Paul if he remembers speaking to Tom Duckworth, the man who accused him of pulling down the AFP tents. His answer was an unequivocal, "No."
He does remember speaking to one tall individual who was with the union, but that man was trying to keep everyone calm. He remembers telling this person, "You're a good man." However, that individual was not Tom Duckworth.
After protesters knocked down the smaller of the two tents, Paul moved to the remaining, larger tent. Here's what happened next in Paul's own words:
After the first tent came down the violence worked its way across and over to the north side to the remaining tent. I was on the south side trying to protect the tie-downs and the straps and trying to keep people away from the tent that were constantly getting in there.
There was a really vile older lady who kept circling the tent and speaking -- making vile statements to everybody as she passed. Finally when she came by there, they were already partially successful at tearing down the other side of the tent so it was starting to come down a little bit. And this vile lady she kept running up and loosening the tie-down straps. I would follow over, went right over to them, and I'd tighten the strap back up. She'd go to the next strap and start to loosen it and I went right over there and tightened it right back up... We were running back and forth constantly and I asked her to stop but she wouldn't.
And then a--I'm going to call him nothing but a union thug--he brought out a large knife and he slashed the strap between the stake and the ratchet and then he ran off like a gazelle. I mean, I've never seen anybody run so fast... Once that strap is completely severed, there's nothing you can do to tighten it back up again or try to reestablish any strength there. It was just a matter of a few minutes and the tent came down.
Just to be clear, I also asked Paul whether he had kicked in any tent poles at any time. "Point blank I never did anything like that. That is the most preposterous lie I've ever seen," he replied. Given that there was a lot of chaos and noise that day, I asked if it was possible Tom Duckworth misinterpreted what he saw?
There was never any question, when I'm following this lady who is loosening the straps, and I'm tightening them. And I'm following her to the next one, and she loosens it and I tighten it and I go back and she goes right back behind me... We played this kind of a tag, but I'm gong to tell you right now there is no way to misinterpret that. None whatsoever. And I would challenge anyone to come up with-- there were hundreds of phones out there taking video constantly--and I would challenge anyone to come up with any video whatsoever that would come up with that kind of a lie. It's preposterous.
Paul was clearly upset about the claim he'd pulled down the AFP tents he'd worked so hard to protect, but about 15 minutes into our conversation it became clear that he'd really had enough of the union members violent behavior in general:
Listen I spent two full days in opposition to those union criminals and thugs on the Capitol steps. I was shoved, pushed around and attacked from behind. Those rabid dogs hit me in the back over and over again with their elbows. We put up with an awful lot and did I turn around and fight back or inflict any pain on those people in any way? I knew that was not the right thing to do, that we weren't going to gain one iota of respect from the people in Michigan if we were to fight back so we just took it.
That's exactly how it looks if you view any of the videos available on YouTube. But the alternate reality claim promoted by Progress Michigan was picked up by a number of blogs, including Empty Wheel, Eclectablog, Crooks and Liars, Daily Kos, and a blog for MSNBC's Ed Show.
The clip seems to have been removed from the Progress Michigan site completely, though it is still posted on the group's Facebook page. Will any of these sites now admit there is zero support for their claims about Paul Hales?