Eathorne Calls On Speaker To Strip Provenza Of Committee Positions For "Promotion Of Violence"

In a letter Wyoming to Speaker of the House Albert Sommers, Republican Party Chairman Frank Eathorne requested that Minority Whip Karlee Provenza be stripped of her committee assignments because of a meme she posted last weekend.

Leo Wolfson

April 05, 20235 min read

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Frank Eathorne, chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, requested that state Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, be removed from her legislative committee assignments following a controversial meme she reshared on social media last weekend.  

Eathorne made this request in a Monday letter sent to Speaker of the House state Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale. 

"The Wyoming Republican Party requests that the Minority Whip be stripped of all committee assignments, as this precedent exists in the Wyoming Legislature as an appropriate response to other threatening behavior by other legislators," Eathorne writes. 

The meme Provenza reshared on Saturday depicts an elderly woman holding a rifle with a scope and the words "Auntie Fa Says protect trans folks against fascists & bigots!" 

Provenza deleted the post and made a statement on Monday apologizing for it but standing by her Second Amendment defense for LGBTQ people. 

"I apologize for failing to recognize the potential impact of my actions on social media, which have contributed to inflammatory and distracting online discourse, Provenza said in a Facebook statement. "Especially in these divisive times, we must always maintain focus on working toward collaborative solutions to the problems facing our state and its residents." 

In a statement Sommers also put out Monday, he condemned Provenza's post, which he also said the second-term legislator received death threats over. 

"The issuance of death threats against an elected official in any context or anyone else is reprehensible and unlawful," Sommers said. "There is simply no room in the legislative sphere for use of fear or threatened violence." 

Other members of the State GOP leadership are cc'd on Eathornes letter but did not attach their signatures.  

"Political Firestorm"

Provenza said in her statement on Monday the message behind the meme is arming and protecting the LGBTQ community, a group of people, she said, who "depend upon Second Amendment protection." 

Many Republicans, including members of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus, spoke against Provenzas post.  They said it incited or defended violence.  

Eathorne agreed. 

"This promotion of violence is abhorrent and should not be tolerated by the Wyoming Legislature, he writes.   

Along this vein, the timing of Provenzas post also drew criticism.  

Last week, a transgender man, Audrey Hale, 28, shot and killed six people at a Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.  

"The Wyoming Legislature should never promote political violence- especially in the aftermath of the targeted attack on Christians by a transgender activist only one short week ago," Eathorne writes. 

Many LGBTQ advocates have expressed concern that Hales gender orientation will spur more violence against transgender individuals. According to the 2015 Report of the U.S. Transgender Survey, 54% of respondents said they were verbally harassed in school, 24% said they were physically attacked, and 13% said they were sexually assaulted because they were transgender. 

In the aftermath of the shooting, some in the media speculated that Hales motive for the shooting could be the Tennessee Legislatures recent passing of a bill banning children from receiving transgender-related health care.  

Eathorne sees this speculation as people justifying the attack, which he said turned "the tragedy into a political firestorm."

He also mentioned Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs' press secretary who "rightfully" resigned last week for posting a photo of a woman holding a pistol in both hands with fingers on the trigger and the caption, "Us when we see transphobes."

The press secretary's meme came out shortly after Hales shooting. 

What Sommers Says 

In his Monday statement, Sommers said that "the implication that violence is necessary to solve political differences has no place in the Wyoming Legislature," but also indicated he found Provenzas apology sufficient. 

As Speaker of the House, Sommers has the power to strip House members of their committee assignments when he so desires. But he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that because at least one ethics complaint has been filed against Provenza for her post, a set process usually takes place. 

Sommers said he has scheduled a time and place to meet with Majority Floor Leader Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett, and Minority Floor Leader Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, about the Provenza matter.  They will provide recommendations to Sommers on how to proceed.  

Sommers said he may also bring the issue up among the House members of the Management Council to determine if any probable cause exists for an investigation into any violations of legislator conduct. 

"There is a process, and I will be working through that," he said. 

Sommers said "more than two" ethics complaints had already been filed on House members from the 2023 Legislature.  He held similar meetings with Neiman and Yin on those.  

One ethics complaint was filed against Rep. Jon Conrad, R-Mountain View.  He was accused of committing a conflict of interest for being a registered lobbyist and an employee of a minerals-based company while serving on the House Minerals Committee.  

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, had two ethics complaints filed against him as well, but that matter will be handled in the Senate. 

Stripping of Assignments 

If Provenza is removed from her two joint and standing committee assignments, it would weaken Wyoming Democratic Party influence, which already is limited with only seven state legislators.  

Provenza serves on the House Education and Judiciary committees. 

One option for Sommers is to replace her with another Democrat. 

Provenza represents the University of Wyoming campus in her district and is a prominent voice on many legal issues. 

Legislators have been stripped of their committee positions in the past.  Bouchard was stripped of his two main standing joint committee and Management Council positions in 2022 as a result of a long pattern of misconduct, according to Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, at the time. 

Bouchard was given one committee assignment during the 2023 Legislature. 

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter