Port: Sen. Oley Larsen and our race to the bottom

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Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. -- On Sunday night, I was in my kitchen cooking my kids some tacos when I saw that state Sen. Oley Larsen, a Republican from Minot, had posted a picture on Facebook.

The caption of the picture claimed it shows Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, in an al Qaeda training camp.

The picture showed no such thing. It is an Associated Press photo of a Somali woman getting some military training in Mogadishu. It was taken in 1978 , years before Rep. Omar was born in 1982, and even more years before al Qaeda formed in Pakistan in 1988.

I attempted to get in touch with Larsen for comment about why he would post such a stupid and embarrassing thing. He hasn’t responded to me, nor anyone else in the news media based on reports I had seen. I then wrote my post about it, noting Larsen’s other posts in which he referred to Omar as a “terrorist.”

Larsen’s Facebook escapades are now a national news story.


Initially, I wanted to use this column to call on Larsen to resign his seat in the Senate, but let’s face it. Politicians don’t quit in shame anymore.

Republican congressman Duncan Hunter of California was re-elected last year even after the federal government indicted him on 60 criminal counts, including wire fraud.

Voters, it seems, don’t want disgraced politicians to resign.

Not, at least, the politicians playing for their preferred team, though they think the other team’s politicians ought to resign based on even the smallest infractions.

When some elected official does something shameful, something dishonest or creepy or even downright criminal, that official’s supporters dig in. They rationalize the behavior. They accuse critics of bias.

Even Larsen, a mere state lawmaker, has excuse-makers working on his behalf.

“A round blogger, paid a salary to blog by a leftist rag posing as conservative started this fake outrage,” one crank, not worthy of being name-checked in this space, wrote about me.

I guess you only get to be a real conservative when you look the other way when Republicans behave like ingrates.


The outrage over Larsen’s posts, at least among decent human beings, is genuine.

I find Rep. Omar’s politics to be obnoxious and wrong-headed. Many of the things she’s done and said are offensive . I don’t think she’s fit to hold elected office.

None of that matters in the context of the idiocy perpetrated by Oley Larsen. He’s the sort of Republican who spends a lot of time whining about “fake news,” yet alleges, based on nothing more than a long-debunked meme, that al Qaeda trained a sitting U.S. congresswoman.

That makes Larsen worthy of criticism and scorn and ridicule, and yes, in a better sort of world, he’d give up his seat in the state Legislature to someone less prone to bamboozlement by internet conspiracy theories.

Larsen will likely stick. Many will defend him. Or, at least, be reticent to criticize him as NDGOP leaders have done so far.

This whole kerfuffle will move us a little further along in our national race to the bottom.

If we on the right are not willing to call out our own when they do something atrocious, why should anyone on the left do the same?

Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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