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Rolly: Tea party tactic typical of hostage takers

Published October 26, 2013 1:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If Richard Worthington were alive today and didn't have a murder rap on his record, he could be a viable tea party candidate for Congress today.

At least, according to one veteran hostage negotiator, his mind-set fit the tea-party tactics of hostage taking to a tee.

Worthington was a hot-tempered fanatic who took his fundamentalist Mormon beliefs to the extreme and decided to kill a doctor for tying his wife's fallopian tubes.

The couple had eight living children while two had died shortly after birth. Worthington felt the doctor's actions prevented he and his wife from bringing down more spirits from heaven, and therefore the doctor needed to die.

He stormed Alta View Hospital in Sandy Sept. 20, 1991, armed with a shotgun, a handgun and sticks of dynamite.

The doctor who was Worthington's target successfully hid from him, but Worthington shot and killed a nurse who tried to disarm him, then held two other nurses, some patients and infants hostage for 18 hours while officers tried to negotiate his surrender. One baby was born during the siege.

Worthington was sentenced to 35 years in prison and committed suicide two years later.

His escapade was brought up recently during a hostage negotiator's conference in South Carolina by Gary Noesner, a former crisis negotiator for the FBI, who compared it to the recent government shutdown by Tea Party Republicans in the House.

Noesner's analogy was brought up in an article in the Oct. 21 edition of the New Yorker by contributing writer Lizzie Widdicombe.

She interviewed Sam Farina, a former Rochester, New York, police chief and president of the New York Association of Hostage Negotiators, who likened the Tea Party's hostage taking of the U.S. economy to a classic hostage stalemate where lives are at stake.

Farina had been to the South Carolina conference and recalled what Noesner had said about the Utah hostage crisis in 1991.

Worthington "was a little bit like some of the Tea Party folks," Noesner had said. "He was full of rage and out of control."

Noesner said negotiators in Washington had to steer the hostage taker away from "unmeetable demands," according to the New Yorker article. That was defunding the Obama administration's most notable achievement. In Worthington's case, his demand was to see his wife, who negotiators feared he wanted to kill.

In both cases, Noesner said, "there's no way a responsible negotiator could let this happen."

But, just like Worthington, who blamed everyone but himself in the tragedy he alone carried out, the members of Congress and the Senate who held the government hostage believe they were right and just and act like they would readily do it again.

Take Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the two leaders of the hostage-taking strategy.

The same day the Washington Post ran a story about Lee's popularity tanking in Utah because of the government shutdown and the Deseret News quoted senior Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch admonishing Lee for his tactics and saying the junior senator needed to be "rehabilitated," the Friends of Mike Lee sent out an email thanking him and urging email recipients to sign an electronic "thank you note" to the senator. It also urged the recipients to donate to Lee's campaign fund to show their thanks.

And right after polls showed how disgusted most of the country was over the hostage-taking tactics, Cruz was on the floor of the Senate blocking the nomination of Richard Wheeler to be the Federal Communications Commission chairman unless Cruz can be assured the FCC won't require more funding disclosures for political ads on television.

So they give up one hostage and take another. And they have no better grip on reality than Richard Worthington did. —




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