This story has been updated.
A social media dust-up involving a Madison school board candidate prompted a call to police last week as conservative blogger David Blaska accused community activist Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores of making a threat on Facebook in a comment that she says was only meant to poke fun at Blaska’s own comments at a public meeting.
Just prior to the December 20 meeting of the Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Ad Hoc Committee, Kilfoy-Flores says she overheard Blaska speaking about his run for the school board seat being vacated by James Howard.
“His exact words were, ‘I’m really proud of myself, especially considering I am putting my life on the line by running for school board,” Kilfoy-Flores said. “I just thought it was a really ridiculous comment.”
Later, in response to a Facebook post about the meeting that was critical of Blaska, Kilfoy-Flores commented, I think someone who cares about David Balaska (sic), I’m sure there are a ton, should ask him not to “put his life on the line” by running for the school board. Maybe his hero, Paula Fitzgerald (sic), will convince him that his life is not worth putting in jeopardy,” followed by a “laughing” emoji.
Kilfoy-Flores was apparently referring to freelance writer and pro-police advocate Paula Fitzsimmons.
Blaska then took a screenshot of that comment and posted it with the caption, “This is what I’m up against,” both on Facebook and his blog. Many Blaska supporters made clear in comments that they took Kilfoy-Flores’s comment as a threat, and Blaska himself commented, “I believe she did threaten.”
“I didn’t word the second sentence the way I intended,” Kilfoy-Flores said. “It doesn’t read the way I intended it to read. I thought, am I going to change my comment out of semantics to appease people? I clarified that I was quoting him. And then I clarified on David Blaska’s thread, as well, that I was quoting him, and I said that multiple times. I made it very clear that this is not a physical violent threat, that that was not at all what I was intending. I’ve been very clear about my intention.”
While Kilfoy-Flores says she didn’t mean her comment as a threat, at least some of the responses were explicitly threatening to her.
Facebook user Jeffrey Feiss, for example, commented, “This ‘woman’ needs a beating, as do others who are behaving this way. This is the only language they will understand.”
It also led to at least one person directly messaging Kilfoy-Flores in a way she found harassing, and to police being alerted.
“There was at least one person sending me multiple messages in my inbox where I had to tell them, ‘Look, this is harassment and I will contact people at the police,’ and their comment was like, “’You think the police are going to help you?’” she said.
Blaska declined to be interviewed, but did say a Madison police detective contacted him.
“I said we’ll let it slide for now but keep a record of it,” he said in a Facebook message.
Madison police confirmed that a detective had contacted Blaska after receiving an email from Fitzsimmons. According to police records, a detective asked Blaska if he felt threatened by the comment, and Blaska said, “leave it where it is,” and no furhter investigation was necessary. Kilfoy-Flores said police did not contact her.
Commentator Mitch Henck made the incident the subject of one of his “Two Minutes with Mitch” videos on Madison.com, saying Kilfoy-Flores’s comments “sounds like a death threat.” A day later he defended his take in an email to Madison365.
“The wording presented to the public doesn’t include the back story,” he wrote. “It was reckless and should not have been posted. People who saw it sent it to me. Words matter. We live in an age where people are fired for much less.”
The video was removed from Madison.com because it “wasn’t fully reported out,” Wisconsin State Journal Editor John Smalley said in an email to Madison365.
On December 30 Henck appealed to his Facebook following to leave Kilfoy-Flores alone.
“Please stop trolling Shadayra Cortes-Flores (sic),” he wrote. “The wording of her post on David Blaska is not necessarily the same as her intent. Please stop bothering her.”
In a December 31 video, Henck announced that his “Two Minutes With Mitch” series on Madison.com was ending, but both he and Smalley said they had planned for months to end the series at the end of 2018, due in part to Henck relocating to Florida.
Other candidates for Seat 4 include Ali Muldrow, Laila Borokhim and Albert Bryan.