CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon used foul language and “his physical presence in an aggressive and threatening manner” in a meeting with the mayor of Wyoming’s capital city, the mayor said Monday.
Gordon slammed his fists on a table and shouted “F— you, mayor” in the meeting last Friday, said Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, who like Gordon is a Republican.
“For a split second I thought about walking out, but I felt like this was a very important issue,” Orr said of the meeting with Gordon about a possible visit to Wyoming in July for a Taiwanese government delegation during Cheyenne Frontier Days.
In a statement after Orr leveled the accusations, Gordon apologized for what he said but denied using intimidating body language.
“I am deeply offended by the mischaracterization represented in the mayor’s description of our meeting,” said Gordon.
The half-hour meeting witnessed by three Gordon staffers ended on a less confrontational note, according to Orr, who said she nonetheless felt like she needed to draw public attention to Gordon’s behavior out of concern it might continue.
It was a rare bit of non-election-year strife in Wyoming, which the Republican Party dominates perhaps more than any other state. Most politicians here save their toughest words for national-level Democrats and the federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., not each other.
A rancher and businessman who once served on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Gordon has been known for his cool-headed demeanor over six years as state treasurer and now five months as governor — in public and behind the scenes.
Gordon won election in 2018 with over two-thirds of the vote. Orr, a former lobbyist whose husband helped with Gordon’s campaign, backed him last year but said she “wouldn’t have endorsed him last fall had I known that he was capable of this.”
She added:”And to be comfortable enough to do this in front of three of your own staff is telling about one’s character.”
The episode involved a generally noncontroversial topic for Wyoming: Ongoing efforts to encourage beef exports to Taiwan, where the state recently opened a trade office. Foreign officials visiting the U.S. often visit Cheyenne during Frontier Days, a two-week festival of rodeo, country music and celebration of the state’s cowboy culture.
But tension involving China — a country where Wyoming officials would like to export some of the state’s vast coal reserves but one that views Taiwan as a renegade province — apparently has muddled coordination of an upcoming, high-level Taiwanese government visit.
Gordon expressed concern during his meeting with Orr that Wyoming should “not be used as a pawn between Taiwan, China and the United States,” he said in his statement.
“The Chinese are very good with intimidation and threats and I think that there was some concern about the work we were trying to do regarding coal exports to China and somehow getting into favoritism, or appearing to show favoritism, toward Taiwan,” Orr said.
Gordon called Orr on Monday to apologize for his language and she accepted the apology, said Gordon’s spokesman, Michael Pearlman.
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