Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Warning from 2,383 miles away

Staff Writer | October 24, 2021 1:09 AM

POST FALLS — A hometown hero he's not.

National headlines and local individuals condemning Post Falls school board candidate David Reilly have reached back to Bloomsburg, Pa., where many who knew Reilly aren't surprised. They are, however, alarmed the recent transplant is trying to oversee a North Idaho school district.

Bloomsburg Stand Against Hate issued a statement to The Press reinforcing many of the concerns already raised about the candidate. BSAH is a group of nearly 500 members in Reilly's hometown.

According to the release, BSAH was contacted by several Kootenai County residents this month after "word of Reilly's past and beliefs began to come to light."

"Bloomsburg, PA is 2,383 miles from Post Falls, ID," the release says. "While many in Bloomsburg will never make it to your part of the country, we reach to you as fellow Americans."

BSAH formed shortly after Reilly covered the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., and interviewed event organizer Jason Kessler. His reporting included tweets later reposted by Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.

According to a 2017 report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the event was the "largest gathering of white nationalists in more than a decade, with more than 500 protesters." At the time, Reilly was a multimedia journalist for WHLM, a radio station in Bloomsburg owned by his family.  

"Reilly interviewed Jason Kessler, organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, allowing him to promote the hate-filled rally on-air," the BSAH statement says. "Reilly attended the rally where participants marched with torches chanting 'Jews will not replace us.'"

According to Pennsylvania media accounts and the BSAH, backlash from the community resulted in almost $500,000 in pulled advertising commitments from WHLM, including Bloomsburg University and Berwick Area Schools. 

"Our schools didn't trust Reilly and Post Falls, you shouldn't either," the BSAH statement says. "We love our community of Bloomsburg — that is why we stood up for ourselves."

In a previous interview with The Press, Reilly said he and his family faced bomb threats and harassment because of his reporting, which eventually led him to resign. 

"I was libeled viciously, slandered and defamed by radical activists," Reilly told The Press earlier this month. "I was threatened, and the business was threatened with bomb threats. I had to tender my resignation in a bulletproof vest because I did an interview with someone."

According to BSAH, however, Reilly was on the offensive.

"Reilly spent more than $30,000 in legal fees alleging defamation from local media outlets," its release says. " In 2020, all charges were thrown out because the case was clear: Reilly gave a platform to hate.

"When Reilly left our community, he acknowledged himself, 'not even McDonald’s would hire [him].' Please consider if you, the voter, would want to hire Reilly to create policy for your schools."

Reilly did not respond to a Press request for comment on Friday.

Two Pro-Israel organizations, Christians United for Israel and StandWithUs, based nationally and internationally, have condemned Reilly's candidacy. On Oct. 7, Idaho chapter of Christians United for Israel Director Pastor David McGarrah called the candidate "an anti-Semite who had no business being involved in children's education."

The Kootenai County Republican Central Committee has affirmed its endorsement of Reilly despite calls from the CUFI and StandWithUs to reconsider. 

Reilly reinforced his candidacy in previous interviews with The Press. He stated that he is the candidate to "fight" against the integration of Critical Race Theory, social, emotional learning, and common core "in our school district."

"I am determined to fight for students and their parents from all backgrounds against these destructive policies and curriculum," Reilly told The Press. "These people are attacking me personally because they cannot attack my platform, because by attacking my platform, they are attacking parents." 

Last week, Post Falls School District Superintendent Dena Naccarato reached out to district patrons stating that CRT is not rooted in the district's teachings. 

On Friday, two current trustees, Michelle Lippert and Dave Paul, spoke to The Press about their concerns for the upcoming election. They said they were recently interviewed for an article about Reilly to be published in The Forward, a national media organization that "delivers incisive coverage of the issues, ideas, and institutions that matter to American Jews." 

"We were alarmed that a person like Dave Reilly was running for school board and the fact that the KCRCC had to know the information as well," said Lippert, a 22-year board member. "It was too available. They have to know." 

Lippert said she didn't oppose his candidacy because of the KCRCC ties. She said the committee and other local political groups, like the Reagan Republicans, have promoted several past board members. Those candidates ended up providing valuable service, she said.

"In all honesty, these people came onto the board, they didn't push a political agenda and they became good board members," Lippert said. "The key to being a good board member is to leave political ideologies at the door and think about what is good and needed for the students."

Still, Lippert said, Reilly's "homophobic statements" and "anti-semitism" have made her very concerned. 

"We have LGBTQ students and employees. What's going to happen if we have a leader who speaks about them in such ugly tones?" Lipper said. "I had a prominent Kootenai County resident who is Jewish call me the other night, and he was very concerned about Reilly." 

Paul, chairman of the board and Zone 1 trustee for about 20 years, said the upcoming election results "scares (him) to death."

"As a public school, our job is to teach every kid. We don't care what color, nationality, or religion they are, and our job is to teach every kid to the best of our ability," Paul said. 

In addition to Reilly's comments on sexuality and religion, Paul said he's concerned about Reilly's statements on women — "partially because the (Post Falls School District) has a women superintendent." 

"He will set this community back 20 years in terms of being racist and everything else," Paul said. "I read something Reilly said about wanting to make sure his beliefs are being taught in schools. What makes his beliefs correct?"

Both Paul and Lippert noted that neither Reilly nor Zone 4 candidate Logan Crieghton have had children enrolled in public schools or PFSD. Both candidates have lived in the area for two years or less, the current trustees added. 

"I have a big issue with people who have never stepped foot in a building in our district running for school board," Paul said. "Come in and see what's actually going on and find out what we teach. Volunteer in the classroom, go on recess duty."

The election is Nov. 2.