Former state Rep. Kiah Morris has released a new YouTube video stating that Vermont is full of racism, and she singles out state Sen. John Rodgers, a highly respected Democrat representing the Essex-Orleans district.
In the Aug. 7 video, Morris, an African-American from Bennington, mentions a tweet she wrote during the contentious gun bill debates of the 2018 legislative session. That’s when lawmakers passed S.55 (Act 94), which placed background checks on private gun sales, set a 10-round magazine limit for rifles and 15 rounds for pistols, banned bump stocks and raised the firearms purchase age to 21.
The tweet said comments Rodgers made at the time were “racist.”
Gotta say: Sen. Rogers, likening your colleagues to insects that have “overrun” Vermont is both racist and historically violent. Unless you are First Nations, you have no right to claim who are real Vermonters. Nativist political platforms are the basest level of discourse.
— Kiah Morris (@KiahMorrisVT) April 12, 2018
After remembering the tweet in the video, she goes on to say Rodgers “had gone on record using some really racist tropes and talking points on the Senate floor in opposition to the bills that were under consideration.”
In particular, Morris took issue with a statement about insects.
“Senator Rodgers likened his colleagues to insects that have overrun the state,” she said in the video. “This is a strong example of dog-whistle political imagery with rather racist implication. The effects of these political tactics are historically consistent in the acceleration of increased discrimination, bias and hate crimes against ethnic minorities and other marginalized people.”
The video message goes on to put forth the narrative that “white nationalism” is rampant.
“So here we are today in the wake of ever-more mass shootings fueled by histrionics and societal acceptance of white nationalism,” she said. “Those actors in the crowd that day at the bill signing, they needed those elected to endorse those beliefs.”
Rodgers told True North in an interview he wasn’t aware of the video.
“I wouldn’t give her the time of day to listen to it,” he said, adding that he stands by his decision to oppose S.55.
“I basically said that we’ve been overpopulated with people who think differently than native Vermonters, and that’s where all these gun restrictions are coming from,” he said. “We’re the safest state in the nation and there’s no statistical reason to be passing all this new gun legislation.”
Rodgers also addressed Morris’ original tweet.
“From my speech, she went on Twitter and said that I was racist and historically violent,” he said. “From that, I went and confronted her and told her that she was racist, and that putting out the tweet that she did was racist.
“I guess that’s the only game she has. I think she’s dishonest, and I think she does things just for media attention.”
Morris resigned from office suddenly in September 2018 after claiming to be the victim of threats and harassment. Separate investigations by Bennington Police and Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan concluded that none of the incidents Morris cited constituted criminal offenses under state law.
Rogers noted that significant taxpayer money has been spent investigating Morris’ claims, which go back to 2016.
“Do you know how much money we spent looking into that?” Rodgers said. “T.J. Donovan investigated and there were no death threats.”
He said Morris was known for stirring up controversy during her time in the Legislature.
“The first term she was in the House she was trying to get funding through the budget for her own position back in Bennington,” Rodgers said. “ … That’s when Shap Smith was speaker [of the House] and he found out about it and shut it down. That’s the kind of person we are dealing with.”