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WAGOP Chairman’s statement on allegations involving Semi Bird  

Bellevue—Last August, when I was elected Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party (WAGOP), I pledged to unite the Party and serve all of Washington in a spirit of goodwill. I knew then that nothing worth fighting for is ever easy. The same holds true today.

Misipati Semi Bird’s campaign for governor was endorsed by the delegates to the Washington State Republican Party’s 2024 State Convention in April in Spokane. Recently, Bird has become embroiled in controversies created by media allegations about his military service.

The WAGOP has been contacted by many people, asking for a clear explanation of the recent media allegations about Bird’s military service. The Party has investigated the allegations to determine which, if any, can be confirmed. It has contacted relevant military offices and interviewed relevant people, including Bird himself. The Party’s conclusions are:

  • Bird’s receipt of the Bronze Star commendation was in good order, per U.S. Army standards.
  • Bird wearing certain ribbons and badges was in good order.
  • Bird wearing certain other ribbons and badges was questionable and was the subject of a 2009 General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMR).
  • The 2009 Reprimand memo sent to Bird is real and legitimate.
  • Bird’s written response to the 2009 Reprimand memo is also real and legitimate.
  • Bird’s claim that the 2009 Reprimand memo and his response were obtained illegally from a restricted personnel file is unresolved.

The 2009 Reprimand memo, in which Gen. Hector Pagan stated in part that Bird “wore awards and badges that you had not earned,” has generated great concern. In his written response to that memo, Bird himself acknowledged: “My actions constitute nothing less than a fraud against the United States Army….” This statement from Bird, in particular, has drawn the attention of both media outlets and people involved in the WAGOP. Understandably so. As WAGOP Chairman, I was deeply troubled to read those words.

Bird has emphasized that the Reprimand memo was administrative—and did not result in any action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or a court martial and did not result in any official punishment or punitive action. This is true.

Bird supporters have claimed that the matters discussed in the 2009 Reprimand memo were proved false or “unfounded.” The WAGOP has not found any official document that supports that claim. Support is circumstantial: Bird remained in the Army, received awards and commendations and eventually received an honorable discharge. Bird has supplied character-reference statements from colleagues and contemporaries in the Army that attest to his unquestioned achievements.

When asked recently about the 2009 Reprimand memo, Gen. Pagan (now retired) declined to speak specifically on the matter—as is his prerogative.

Some of the discussion around the 2009 Reprimand memo and Bird’s response has focused on whether or not the documents were obtained by the media legally. That matter remains unresolved. In any event, the WAGOP must accept and work within the political reality that the documents are now public and generating questions about trust in the integrity of the Party’s endorsement processes.

Several other WAGOP-endorsed candidates for statewide executive positions and for congressional positions have contacted the Party with concerns about the 2009 Reprimand memo. These other candidates are being questioned—both in private and at public events—about the Bird controversies. Such questions put them in the awkward position of having to talk about matters they don’t know first-hand. And that doesn’t help their campaigns. Several of these other WAGOP-endorsed candidates have asked that the Party not associate their names or campaigns with the Bird controversies.

Separately, some people—including some Bird supporters—have made baseless statements about the WAGOP “rescinding” its Convention endorsement of Bird for governor.

There is no mechanism in WAGOP bylaws or rules for caucuses and conventions by which the Party can “rescind” an endorsement made at the State Convention. Statements that the WAGOP is rescinding the Convention endorsement or has some “plan” to rescind are false.

Perhaps the most difficult effect of the 2009 Reprimand memo is that it creates a political narrative larger than any one of its parts. This larger, cumulative effect is more complex than any one fact-finding exercise can answer. Bird, and only Bird, can counter this effect by making a clear and forceful public statement that resets the political narrative. The WAGOP cannot do that for him. Soldiers he served with cannot do that for him. Only Bird can resolve the controversies created by the 2009 Reprimand memo.

The best way for the WAGOP to protect the integrity of its processes is to acknowledge as many facts as we can—even if those facts are difficult—and move ahead in support of Republican candidates. Washington Republicans must not let media-fueled controversies turn us against each other. We win on policy. And we win when good people join us. That’s the political narrative the WAGOP encourages.

Finally, the Party won’t decide whether Semi Bird has successfully answered the controversies raised by the 2009 Reprimand memo and has reset the political narrative. The media will not, either. The voters of this state will decide. In Washington, all political power is inherent in the people.

 

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