Democrat Andy Smith jokes about possible arson of conservative offices

Rep. Walter Hudson said Smith needs to be "held to account for undermining our democratic process."

Federal and local agencies are investigating a fire that broke out early Sunday morning in an office building in Golden Valley that houses three of the state's most prominent conservative organizations. (Photos provides to Alpha News)

Democratic legislator Andy Smith was widely criticized for his reaction to the news that three conservative organizations may have been the victims of arson — so much so that he almost immediately deleted his Twitter account.

A Golden Valley building that houses the Center of the American Experiment, TakeCharge, and the Upper Midwest Law Center caught fire early Sunday morning. The ATF confirmed with Alpha News that federal and local agencies are conducting an “arson investigation” into the fire.

Smith shared the Alpha News story on Twitter along with an image of the fictional TV character Dwight Schrute singing “Ryan started the fire.” This was in reference to a scene from the TV show “The Office” in which the character Ryan Howard starts a fire in the office by overcooking a piece of pita bread in a toaster oven, forcing staff to evacuate.

Smith, a first-term Democrat from Rochester, apparently deleted his Twitter account in the face of mounting criticism online.

John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment, explained what happened in a post on PowerLine, a popular blog he co-founded.

“… leftists firebombed my office last Saturday night. At around 2 a.m., they broke into the building that houses Center of the American Experiment and two other conservative organizations with which we often collaborate, along with many other businesses. The arsonists set two fires: one was in the first floor corridor between American Experiment’s office and the space we sublease to TakeCharge, Kendall and Sheila Qualls’ organization. A second fire was set on the third floor, immediately outside or perhaps actually inside the office of the Upper Midwest Law Center, on whose board I serve,” he wrote.

The building, which houses various other non-political organizations and businesses, was deemed uninhabitable and will take months to repair.

A spokesperson for ATF said the FBI, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Hennepin County Fire Investigation team, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal Division are all investigating the incident. The Golden Valley Fire Department said it responded to the fire at 8421 Wayzata Blvd. shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

Republican Rep. Elliott Engen of White Bear Township said all options are on the table for addressing Smith’s post, ranging from a demand for a public apology, introducing a resolution condemning his statement, or even a formal ethics complaint.

Rep. Andy Smith/Minnesota House

“Maybe the DFL should take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves if cheering on the firebombing of their political opponents’ workplace is a threat to democracy,” Engen said.

Rep. Walter Hudson, R-Albertville, said Smith needs to be “held to account for undermining our democratic process.”

“Unlikely though it may seem, I get along with Rep. Smith and feel a strange kinship with him, as we each seem to revel in dancing on the bleeding edge of propriety in the public discourse. But I would never even consider making light of an arson apparently targeted at political organizations,” he said. “That crosses a line acknowledged by his account’s sudden disappearance.”

One of the organizations impacted by the fire, TakeCharge, is a black-led nonprofit with a mission of restoring “the traditional nuclear black family” and promoting “the promise of America” for all races.

“We were targeted because we are a black organization disputing the narrative of systemic racism. If we were a left-leaning organization, hundreds of media outlets would be at our front door telling us we are victims of racism,” said its founder and president, Kendall Qualls.


Anthony Gockowski

Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.