As Minnesota’s principal conservative organization, American Experiment does battle every day with leftist forces. The events of this week illustrate the vicissitudes of life in the trenches.
We are putting on a series of programs across the state on crime and law enforcement. On Tuesday, we had events scheduled in Rochester at noon and Owatonna, a smaller city 30 or 40 miles from Rochester, at 5:30. Our Rochester event was to be held at the Rochester Golf and Country Club, which hosted three events for us in 2021. We had a signed contract in place with a standard force majeure clause that allowed the country club to cancel in case of war, riot or acts of God. As of last Friday, the club’s staff was exchanging emails with our staff finalizing plans for the lunch event. We had around 50 people registered to attend, who had all paid $20.
Late last week, a left-wing activist in Rochester started a Change.org petition calling on the country club to cancel our event. To our amazement, and in plain violation of our written agreement, the club yielded to the extremists’ demands. Late Sunday afternoon, the club’s general manager called one of our staff to say that our event had been canceled by the club’s board of directors.
I called the general manager first thing Monday morning. I expressed amazement at the purported cancellation for a number of reasons. First, it obviously breached our contract and exposed the club to a claim for damages. He did not disagree. Second, the program for the event featured a panel that included Jeff Van Nest, a Policy Fellow at American Experiment who has recently retired from the FBI after 20 years, along with the Chief of Police of Rochester and the Sheriff of Olmsted County. It seemed remarkable that the club had gone out of its way to insult its own sheriff and chief of police. The conversation concluded with the general manager saying that he would call board members to revisit the issue.
Not having heard more from the club by mid-day, we retained counsel, sued the country club for breach of contract, and moved for a temporary restraining order. By this time, of course, the lunch event was only hours away. We were not able to obtain an order in time for the 11:30 commencement of the lunch.
Our staff drove to Rochester, uncertain whether the program would proceed. They found that the country club was locked up tight and no one appeared to be on the premises. Our crowd gathered in the club’s parking lot, along with the sheriff, the chief of police, two local television news crews, and one or more reporters. When it became evident that the event would not proceed, our Communications Director held a press conference in the parking lot and the police chief was also interviewed.
The resulting story led the local television news:
Our team then continued on to Owatonna, where they put on a tremendous event attended by 115 people. Again, Jeff Van Nest was joined by the local chief of police and county sheriff. The local newspaper had a good story on the event.
We are continuing our lawsuit for breach of contract against the Rochester Golf and Country Club and have alleged damages in excess of $50,000. We are considering whether to sue the leftist who started the Change.org petition for tortious interference with contract. And, of course, we will be back in Rochester at a different venue within the next few weeks.
But that is only half the story. On Monday, the Rochester Post Bulletin printed a front-page article previewing our upcoming lunch event. The story, by a rookie reporter, was nothing more than a smear of American Experiment and, in particular, our Policy Fellow Jeff Van Nest. The article attributed “fringe” and “right wing” views to Jeff, and likened American Experiment to the Ku Klux Klan. Most absurdly, it claimed that Jeff was “attached to” the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Needless to say, that was a complete fabrication.
On Tuesday afternoon, following the canceled lunch program, the Post Bulletin published a second story that repeated the Pizzagate fantasy, this time saying–as a fact–that Jeff was “tied to” Pizzagate. Our Communications Director called the editor of the paper, who then did a page 5 correction acknowledging that Jeff had nothing to do with Pizzagate, but not mentioning his name. Our lawyer is preparing a letter to the newspaper demanding a page one apology to Jeff and a total retraction of the “news” stories. Failing that, Jeff intends to sue the paper and the reporter for libel.
It is not an exaggeration to say that today’s Left is a force of pure evil. They have declared war on us–not just conservatives, but on our country and any institution that tries to defend our country and our way of life. We have no choice but to fight. For those of us on the front lines, the battle is never-ending. If you want to support American Experiment in our fight for America and for freedom, you can donate here.