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Rolly: Noel's speech shows how spinning fiction becomes a fact of life in GOP's alternate reality

Published May 5, 2017 6:50 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Recent editorials, op-ed contributors, columnists and news stories in The Salt Lake Tribune have documented falsehoods spouted by Utah leaders about Bears Ears National Monument and other land-protection measures.

Those leaders argue that former President Barack Obama's administration left local officials out of the decision-making process, but evidence shows the White House's collaborative efforts.

They insist American Indian tribes with deep ancestral ties to the Bears Ears area were mostly against the monument designation, but the opposite is true.



And they assert that the 20-year-old Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has devastated southern Utah's economy when studies show little negative economic impact on surrounding communities.

These leaders, all from one political party, speak in an echo chamber in which their fantasies become perceived reality.

An example of how a fallacy becomes the new truth guiding important policy decisions and potential legislation is a speech by state Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, about a month ago at the San Juan County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner.

For years, Noel — a walking, talking fact-check alert — has been the Legislature's most vocal opponent of federal oversight and regulations on protected public lands.

He wields great power as the House Rules Committee chairman, and he is said to be under consideration by the Trump administration for the top job at the Bureau of Land Management.

His speech was recorded by Monte Wells, a right-wing blogger in San Juan County, and posted on social media.

The event was attended not only by area Republicans, but also by state Auditor John Dougall and an aide from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz's office.

Hear are some highlights from Noel's talk:

• Dan Love, a BLM agent who used to oversee Utah and Nevada operations, is an arrogant, self-righteous narcissist who, in Noel's opinion, is going to go to jail, and, if Noel becomes the BLM boss, other federal agents will be right there with him.

• U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby also is arrogant and self-righteous, and is dishonest and has a cozy relationship with Steven Bloch, attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who has fought for environmental protections. Noel suggested that during hearings over the closure of roads on protected lands, Shelby and Bloch were "holding hands" and "rubbing their feet together" under the table. That statement obviously was tongue-in-cheek and was met with chuckles from the audience, but it had a vicious tone and underscored the hatred Noel and others like him have for those who differ with them.

• Noel said San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who spent 10 days in jail for sponsoring an illegal ATV ride in San Juan County's Recapture Canyon, was not given a fair trial because Shelby did not allow the defense to present evidence that the county had a right of way. Shelby did bar evidence by any party regarding a possible RS2477 claim through Recapture Canyon, ruling that it was not relevant to the case. But Lyman's lawyer did not object, saying he had no intention of raising such a defense at trial.

• Noel said the government sought a punishment for Lyman of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The government never sought that kind of punishment against Lyman, although prosecutors wanted more than 10 days for the misdemeanor conviction. At least Noel's fictional fine amount was reduced from his assertion in an earlier email to constituent Heath Weaver, who had complained about Noel's attempts to commit taxpayer funds for Lyman's defense and appeals. In that email, it was a $500,000 fine the government supposedly sought.

• Noel called former President Barack Obama an "arrogant, narcissistic president" who manipulated the Navajos. He also said it was more than 20 years ago that Obama created the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Obama didn't become president until 2009. Then-President Bill Clinton declared that monument in September 1996.

• Noel cited a Utah Navajo official who opposed the Bears Ears designation as proof the Navajos didn't want the monument. But a broad coalition of tribal leaders, including the Navajos, have threatened to sue the Trump administration if it tries to repeal the designation.

That's the fake reality among Utah policymakers. If any naysayers disagree, they are rejected. They're not, as Noel would say, "one of us."

prolly@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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