Lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly on Friday rounded out their floor debates with bipartisan condemnation of Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams, who earlier this week labeled state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, a terrorist.
Speaking from the House floor on Friday morning, Herod said those comments were not only untrue but also dangerous.
“I am under real threat now. Those words have sparked something in some people that have put me in the line of danger,” she said. “I have state troopers who are now at my house on a regular basis who have had to stay the night in front of my home because the threats are real and I continue to get them.”
But she pledged she “will not be bullied into silence.”
“I look forward to continuing to fight for issues that matter for all of us,” Herod said.
Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, echoed those comments from the Senate floor.
“We all are down here to represent our community, but you have the police calling someone a terrorist that's a lawmaker,” she said. “That kind of rhetoric is unacceptable and it is dangerous — it's also disgusting. I can express my opinion and my thoughts and my concerns without calling you a name.”
Reams’ comments, first reported by the Colorado Times Recorder, came Monday at a meeting of Keep Colorado Free & Open, a group that opposes public health orders issued to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The comments came after an attendee said the federal Supreme Court’s Marbury v. Madison ruling gives Americans the right to ignore laws they feel are “repugnant” to the Constitution and instead abide by “natural law.” In a video of the meeting posted on the group’s Facebook page, Reams responded by telling those in attendance to be willing to question authority and go to elected officials in order to “put them on record.”
“I guarantee you, Leslie Herod down at the state Capitol has made a name for herself. In my mind, she’s a terrorist, she’s a terrorist against the citizens of Colorado. Her record speaks volumes,” Reams said.
“If there’s anybody that you should have a reason to get out of office, it’s Leslie Herod because she is absolutely running bills to strip law enforcement from your daily lives to prevent law enforcement from protecting you and she’s turning the state upside-down. She’s on record. How many others can we get on record and then who do we run against them? That’s the ultimate question.”
Those comments drew condemnation on Thursday from a number of Herod’s House Democratic colleagues — including Speaker Alec Garnett of Denver and Majority Leader Daneya Esgar of Pueblo — as well as the creation of the #StandWithLeslie hashtag. On the House floor on Friday, Broomfield Democratic Rep. Matt Gray said Reams’ comments were especially problematic given his role as a senior law enforcement official.
“There need to be authorities on what makes us safe and what makes us unsafe and there is no space for people who have that role, that profound responsibility to call an elected official a terrorist for the kind of legislation that they vote on and that they introduce,” he said.
Rep. Stephanie Luck, R-Penrose, added a message of support for Herod.
“Today, especially in light of what was just shared, I think it is even more important for all of us to remember, and I say this to Rep. Herod specifically: you are loved, you are amazing, you are worthy and adored, and I can't wait to see you again soon,” she said.
Several other lawmakers chimed in on the Senate floor Friday morning, including Westminster Democratic Sen. Faith Winter, who implied Reams’ comments stemmed from Herod being a Black woman and a member of the LGBT community.
“I've passed many controversial bills, I’ve brought many controversial bills and lost and I've never been called a terrorist for doing my job,” she said. “I think that's because I'm a privileged white woman and this member's not.”
Sen. John Cooke, a Greeley Republican who represents parts of Weld County and formerly served as the county’s sheriff, countered that based on the context, Reams’ comments “had nothing to do with her being Black.” Still, he said he spoke with Reams and expressed disappointment in his comments.
“I want to make it clear that I did not agree with the statements made yesterday by the sheriff of Weld County,” he said. “I called the sheriff today this morning before we came down here and said, ‘Hey dude, it's not helpful.
“We should not be calling people that come down here to do their job, to represent their districts, terrorists. It gets us nowhere, it just causes hate and discontent when we all need to work together, not only our districts, but for the entire state of Colorado.”
Cooke also noted Herod had previously used the term terrorist to refer to former President Donald Trump in a tweet.
“One side doesn't have the monopoly on calling people names and then condemning the other ones,” he said. It goes both ways and we all need to not call our fellow lawmakers terrorists or our president of the United States.
Asked about that tweet in an interview on Thursday night, Herod told Colorado Politics she stood by her previous comments.
“I think it's very different to make a statement like that versus to be a law enforcement officer talking to a group of anti-government folks who are asking to take the law into their own hands, to publicly name me and call me out as someone who is a terrorist,” she said.
“I think it's completely inaccurate, but I do think in this day and age with what just happened in Boulder, with what happened with the insurrection at the Capitol, we all need to be more careful with our words.”