Todd Beasley defends anti-Muslim Facebook posts after removal from Brooks-Medicine Hat UCP nomination

Click to play video: '2 southern Alberta UCP candidates removed'
2 southern Alberta UCP candidates removed
WATCH ABOVE: The fight for nominations in the United Conservative Party generated some controversy over the weekend and led to the removal of two southern Alberta candidates. Tom Vernon reports – Jul 16, 2018

The United Conservative Party (UCP) disqualified a nominee for the Brooks-Medicine Hat riding after comments he made on social media came to light that called Muslims “fools who are really worshipping Satan” and “those who think a rational God would anoint a dark-age pedophile warlord as his prophet.”

In response to the same Facebook page of supporters of Dutch nationalist and right-wing populist politician Geert Wilders, Todd Beasley also wrote: “Islam is not a religion of peace. It’s cruel, revolting, racist, oppressive and has no legitimate basis.”

“I absolutely reject Islam, and all it stands for, and for any religion and their holy man that stand up and call for the murder of innocents,” Beasley told Danielle Smith on 770 CHQR.

LISTEN: Todd Beasley defends his anti-Muslim social media posts after being pulled from UCP nomination ballot

In a letter addressed to Beasley, signed by executive director Janice Harrington, the UCP said its board of directors has “unanimously confirmed the decision of the nominations committee regarding (Beasley’s) disqualification,” with no appeal available, after contravening the party’s nominee screening process.

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[Jason] Kenney has been very clear,” UCP director of political operations Jeff Henwood told Global News, “since he launched the unity project a couple of years ago, that there would be a thorough candidate screening process, and that people who have espoused vile, hateful views would not be permitted to be candidates. Obviously, these comments, I think, meet that criteria. The nominations committee of the party felt that way, the party board unanimously agreed with that assessment, and Mr. Beasley was informed of that and made the decision to withdraw late Saturday.”

Henwood said the comments were found by the party’s research team around July 9, and were subsequently presented to the nominations committee.

“Mr. Beasley was then informed on Wednesday that we had serious concerns about his public statements,” Henwood said.

On 770 CHQR, Beasley said he brought up the social media posts during the screening process.

“I felt it was very important that they understand that I didn’t know whether these posts still existed or not, but I was straight-up, forthcoming, honest, and I made it clear to them that I had made very strong statements against Islam in the context I said it.”

“I absolutely disclosed this. Prior to running, I asked the direct question to Jeff Harrington, ‘Jeff, is this a hanging offence? Because, if it is, I’m not going to run. I do not want to do anything that is going to cause harm to the United Conservative Party.’”

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Harrington said while Beasley did disclose the themes of his social media posts, he failed to share the actual Facebook comments.

“He mentioned that he had made some comments that he thought could be troubling, but didn’t think would be troubling. So it was when we actually discovered what the comments were–they were much more severe and inappropriate than we had believed to be when he first mentioned to us.”

Beasley recalls responding to a number of articles on social media with similar posts around May 2017, when he said Muslims were “fools who are really worshipping Satan.”

“I’ve put out a number of posts through time in response to the call for the slaughter of innocents, and quite frankly, I don’t remember those posts, but I do remember that time frame. What it comes down to is: I don’t believe those still exist.”

“Do you recognize,” Smith asked during an interview on 770 CHQR, “the difference here is that you are dismissing the entire religion and all the followers of it as being equally extreme, as opposed to just identifying the radical elements of Islam that are proposing jihad? Do you see that you’ve swept an entire religion with the same brush, and in your words on the air [Monday], that you’ve rejected Islam as a whole?”
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“Danielle, I’m not obsessing over Islam. Not at all. This was a post made in the context of murder of innocents by a holy man following the tenants of his faith. I said this 16 months ago, and at that point in time I was some upset and, as I say, I think that any reasonable person would reject that.”

Throughout the interview Monday morning, Beasley continued his defence of his anti-Muslim social media posts.

“Well, quite frankly, Danielle, I don’t remember all of the words that were in there, but the essence of them, in that context, of a supposed holy man calling for the slaughter of innocents, yeah, I said those words or I said the essence of those words, and, in that context I stand behind them.”

“Even ‘The mongols would have done mankind a favour if they snuffed this evil cult when they had the chance?’ That almost sounds like you’re doing the exact same thing–you’re calling for the murder of innocents, too.”

“Well, that was in the seventh or eighth century, Danielle, and I’m talking about that in that context of time.”

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Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt agreed the decision to remove Beasley as a nominee for candidacy by the United Conservatives was the right thing to do for the party.

“When you look at the comments that Beasley made, he’s unapologetic for them. And if they would have been during an election campaign, it would have derailed Kenney’s campaign. He would have had to spend time explaining, ‘Is it the UCP’s position that all Muslims are satanists?’ So I think this is a positive step that the UCP has made in this case.”

This isn’t the first prospective UCP nominee that had been withdrawn by the right-wing party.

“There was another individual who was disqualified several weeks ago in a different race for comments that were found…to cause reputational damage to the party if he was allowed to proceed with his candidacy,” Henwood told Global News.

“There’s always a balancing act in choosing candidates,” Bratt said.

“Do you have people that have a past that would be quite controversial? These could be criminal records, these could be bankruptcies, these could be assault allegations, or in this case, social media posts that could be damaging to the party.”

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Bratt also noted the importance of due diligence in the screening process.

“Because there is going to be opposition research, you need to do your own research on your candidates, because it is absolutely a safeguard.”

Bratt credits the UCP’s professional political researchers with catching the social media comments made by Beasley.

“I think it was a good catch…before the voting occurred, as opposed to waiting until after he was done and opposition started to investigate this and [could] release that at inopportune times.”

“If you’re the party, I would rather be 48 hours early than 48 hours late.”

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