My latest update on this story is here.


State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane), who's running for US Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent US Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), appears to have sent me a bizarre email late last night.

The email, which came from Baumgartner's personal account, included the photo I've posted below.

The email in its entirety said:
Josh, this is Pat Feeks, a Navy SEAL killed last week in Afghanistan. Take a good look and then go fuck yourself.

The picture appears to be Baumgartner on the left; Baumgartner was an adviser in Iraq during the surge, and he was embedded with an Afghan counternarcotics team in 2009.  (Editor's Note: I've taken down the original picture, cropping out Feeks, at the request of  Feeks' friends. Baumgartner included Feeks in the picture he emailed to me.)

As we noted yesterday, a main part of Baumgartner's campaign platform is ending the war in Afghanistan. Feeks was killed when his helicopter crashed during a firefight in Kandahar last week.

Several attempts to contact Baumgartner and his campaign last night and this morning have been unsuccessful.

I interviewed Baumgartner yesterday in the context of the story about US Rep. (and US Senate candidate) Todd Akin (R-MO). It's  hard to know what prompted his e-mail last night, but he noted during our interview yesterday that he was frustrated that the abortion issue was getting so much attention when he was focused on ending the war in Afghanistan.

Like Akin, Baumgartner is against abortions in instances of rape. Baumgarnter trashed Akin's "ignorant" and "stupid" comments about women's supposed ability to avoid getting pregnant from rape. However, he stood by his own anti-abortion/pro-life position.

UPDATE: Baumgartner has released a statement

Senator Michael Baumgartner made this statement today regarding PubliCola’s article that published a private e-mail between him and PubliCola editor, Josh Feit:

“This was a follow-up e-mail to a previous conversation with a local blogger,” Baumgartner said. "I apologize to Josh for my strong language."

“A cornerstone of my campaign thus far has been to address and end the war in Afghanistan. Every week, our best American men and women are killed. Since I announced my candidacy in October, 301 Americans have been killed.”

“The problem is that many media outlets, including PubliCola, do not want to talk about why these men and women continue to be killed. They don’t want to discuss Maria Cantwell's record supporting the war in Afghanistan or a smarter foreign policy that can save thousands of lives in the future.”

Here is some of PubliCola's coverage of our D.C. delegation's opposition to the war in Afghanistan, including Cantwell's Afghanistan strategy:

A note on all of this: Baumgartner is mischaracterizing his email to me, making it sound as if we were engaged in a larger private conversation. That is not the case. I had an on-the-record interview with him on Monday afternoon about Rep. Akin. During the interview, Baumgartner talked about his own emphasis on Afghanistan. I noted that in my article.

Several hours later, at a quarter to 11, he sent me the email that I've published here in full.

I tried several times, beginning on Monday night, to get in touch with him looking for an explanation.

UPDATE 2: According to KIRO TV, Baumgartner has retracted his apology and says I "had it coming."

UPDATE 3, Wednesday, August 22:

Baumgartner told the press yesterday that the two-line email he sent me late Monday night telling me to “go fuck yourself” was part of a larger, personal private conversation between us.

That’s not true.

I interviewed state Sen. Baumgartner on the record on the phone on Monday afternoon about US Rep. Todd Akin’s position that women shouldn’t be allowed to have abortions in instances of rape. Baumgartner believes the same thing, and like Akin, Baumgartner is running for the US Senate on the GOP ticket.

Baumgartner condemned Akin’s now-infamous theory that women who are raped don’t get pregnant, but defended his own policy position that women shouldn’t have the right to get abortions if they’ve been raped. I wrote an article about this on Monday after our phone interview.

In the same article, I also noted that Baumgartner told me his campaign was not about the “culture wars” but was focused on jobs and ending the war in Afghanistan.

I included that footnote in the article because at the beginning of the interview, also on the record, Baumgartner took a few moments to complain that reporters weren’t covering his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and he was frustrated that instead, he was getting a call about abortion.

My article, however, focused on the news of the day—women’s health care, which I think is just as important for a US senate candidate to talk about as the war in Afghanistan.

Several hours later, Baumgartner sent me his angry email. This was the first I’d heard from Baumgartner since our on-the-record phone interview.

After getting the email, I tried to contact him several times. He did not respond. I reached him once, but after I identified myself, we were disconnected, and I was not able to ask him about the email.

After leaving a final message on Tuesday morning alerting his campaign that I intended to publish the email, I still did not hear back. I eventually published his email that afternoon.

The only part of the email exchange that I left out of my post on Tuesday was my reply. Here it is in full:

“? Is this really Sen. Baumgartner?”
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