Pledge controversy leads to death threat claims

Evanston police and the FBI say complaints have been filed over possible Internet death threats directed at two League of Women Voters officials stemming from a candidates debate in Grayslake.

Criticism started flying around cyberspace over volunteer moderator Kathy Tate-Bradish's perceived lukewarm reaction when she was asked if the Pledge of Allegiance would be recited before the 8th Congressional District debate on Oct. 21.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirmed Thursday that League of Women Voters Illinois Executive Director Jan Czarnik filed a report claiming she and Tate-Bradish have received Internet death threats. Czarnik triggered criticism after saying the pledge request was “phony patriotism” from a candidate's supporters.

“Her complaint has been received and is receiving due consideration,” Rice said.

Czarnik wrote the FBI that an Oct. 23 Daily Herald story on the debate she was quoted in was “turned into a cause celebre by Glenn Beck and Fox News.”

Since then, death threats have appeared on “right-wing websites,” said Czarnik, who provided printouts to the FBI. She also reported menacing posts on Fox News Channel's Facebook page and Beck's website, The Blaze.

“We don't say the Pledge of Allegiance at our events and we should be shot or hanged?” said Czarnik, who went to the FBI on Wednesday. “Who are these people?”

Joel Cheatwood, an executive who oversees Beck's show, issued a statement after Fox News was contacted Thursday.

“We're not going to comment on something that's hypothetical as we have not heard about this complaint,” Cheatwood said.

Tate-Bradish filed a report about Internet threats Wednesday with Evanston police, Cmdr. Tom Gunther said. Detectives will look into the complaint, he added.

Brought in from the League of Women Voters Evanston branch because she doesn't live in the 8th Congressional District, Tate-Bradish handled the debate at Grayslake Central High School that featured U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, a Democrat from Barrington, Republican Joe Walsh of McHenry and the Green Party's Bill Scheurer.

Tate-Bradish was asked that night whether the Pledge of Allegiance would be recited after she covered ground rules and invited the candidates to make opening statements.

Walsh supporter Joseph Ptak of Island Lake, a U.S. Air Force veteran, made the pledge request from the audience

As Tate-Bradish explained the pledge was not scheduled to begin the event, almost all in the crowd of more than 300 stood and enthusiastically recited it anyway.

Tate-Bradish lectured the crowd after the pledge, which she recited. She said there is no “disrespect” meant toward the U.S. flag by not typically having the Pledge of Allegiance at candidate debates moderated by the League of Women Voters.

“I have to say that being forced by having audience members stand up in presumably a planned way to have something like that happen seems a bit disrespectful,” Tate-Bradish had told the crowd, drawing jeers.

Tate-Bradish has defended her handling of the debate and said none of the candidates asked for the Pledge of Allegiance in advance.

Czarnik accused Walsh supporters of “phony patriotism” and trying to bully the League of Women Voters when she spoke to the Daily Herald after the debate. A Walsh spokesman questioned why Tate-Bradish was neutral about the Pledge of Allegiance and said the request was spontaneous.

Pledge of Allegiance breaks out in the debate audience

LWV official: Pledge of Allegiance demand 'phony patriotism'