Robocall targets local journalist

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SANDPOINT — A local journalist and news publication are the target of violent threats, according to a robocall that began turning up on people’s answering machines this week.

“Ben Olson is a cancer on wholesome North Idaho and cancers must be burned out,” the anonymous caller says in the message, referring to the Sandpoint Reader’s publisher.

The message, which is produced to sound like a public service announcement and includes tense keyboard background music, attacks Olson personally and questions his journalistic credentials. It also attacks the Sandpoint publication as a vector for a “leftist agenda” that is being pushed on “our people.”

“Burn out the cancer,” the message continues.

The 56-second message also accuses Olson of threatening a local business owner to write an unflattering article about him if he did not evict a tenant whose politics Olson disagreed with and urges listeners to boycott the weekly publication’s advertisers.

“Burn out the cancer Ben Olson and send a message to the rest of his tiny leftist cabal that their time is over and it can happen to them, too,” the message concludes.

The robocall follows an August robocall hyping a visit by a prominent neo-Nazi. That call followed calls attacking Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad and a campaign to smear journalists at the Reader and other news publications in Sandpoint.

Messages seeking comment from Sandpoint Police Chief Corey Coon was not returned on Friday.

Olson released the following statement on Friday:

“These anonymous calls and emails are part of an ongoing trend, it seems, to impugn people who stand up to racism and intolerance in North Idaho. They will not affect the way the Reader reports the news at all, and furthermore, we appreciate all the free advertising. It has been gratifying to see the outpouring of kindness from the community after these calls. Love will always win over hate.”

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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