In an almost unprecedented rebuke of one local elected official by another, the Flagler County School Board’s Colleen Conklin over the weekend publicly called County Commissioner Joe Mullins the “Pied Piper of hate, deception and fraud” and a “narcissistic beast,” described his attacks on the school board as “garbage,” lambasted him for peddling division, and offered to buy him a ticket back north.
Conklin said she was prompted to respond after a friend sent her a 30-minute video of a Mullins appearance before a group of Flagler Republicans he calls the “adorable deplorables” on March 25. Mullins himself had posted a video of his appearance on his Facebook page.
Conklin’s statement is the latest by local elected officials to excoriate Mullins for divisiveness and the brutality of his attacks on immigrants, the LGBTQ community or anyone not a hard-core, Trump-supporting Republican. The rebukes have come from School Board, Flagler Beach, Palm Coast officials and two of Mullins’s current or former colleagues on the County Commission (whom he’d insulted and threatened). But Mullins continues to rely on two other colleagues, Donald O’Brien, chairman of the commission, and Dave Sullivan, who have rebuffed attempts to publicly censure Mullins despite numerous and grave instances of his bigotry, insults and slanders.
The March 25 video appears to be the ordinary stump speech of grievances Mullins has been repeating in one form or another, often at official town hall meetings advertised for him by the county administration, where he seizes on a mixture of issues of the moment and standard grievances about guns, God, liberals, masks, and so on. Mullins has always had a tendentious relationship with facts, but the 29-minute appearance was particularly filled with falsehoods, inaccuracies and baseless claims. (See the point-by-point fact-check here: “Joe Mullins Falsehoods, Mischaracterizations, Misleading and Baseless Statements: A Fact-Check.”
In one of the more vile passages in the video, Mullins combined racism with blaming the victims, falsely characterizing the massage parlors as “Chinese,” falsely and defamatory claiming they were sites of child-trafficking, and accusing the victims: “I hate that there was murder happen there, I hate that there was victims that were killed,” he said. “But you cannot, that’s like God says, don’t do illegal act like that, or don’t do a sinful act, you will get punishment from it. There [are] repercussions, that kind of stuff draws some of the lowest life. Most of them are child-trafficked in there. They’re trafficking. But yet we turn it around to a race thing, where our president came to it. Is that saying that that kind of action is OK?”
In another vile moment, he spoke of how transgender people risk getting “eliminated” if they carry on, though he was vague about how, or what he meant by a “third party”: “If these people that are transgender and all that think that when this country is taken over by a third party, that they’re going to be left whole, they’ll be the first to be eliminated from this commu– from this country.”
Mullins at other points spoke proudly of actively antagonizing people he disagrees with from his seat at county commission meetings, repeated the lie that Joe Biden “wasn’t elected by this country,” boasted of promoting a “prayer community, a Christian community, conservative, Christian community to such an extreme,” and devoted a sizeable portion of his attacks to the Flagler County School Board’s majority that last December approved a policy change to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender students, in line with federal law. The School Board’s Janet McDonald was in Mullins’s audience, and participated in the attacks on her fellow board members.
Most of his claims were false, misleading or misinformed. His claims about the transgender issue were no different.
“This transgender and this equality act movement that’s happening right now,” Mullins said, “they go oh, you’re just being racist and hateful. I go, no, everything my child learned in Sunday, on Sunday, I don’t want undone Monday through Friday in school. What she learns on Sunday is more important than anything she’ll ever have in her life, and I don’t want her being confused and coming home to me saying, dad, I’m not sure if I’m a male or a female. I went in the bathroom and a guy was in there. You let me catch a guy in the bathroom with my daughter and he won’t go in another one any time soon.”
Mullins got a smatter of applause, though his statement implying that students were being pushed to choose one gender over another was grossly false. “We are facing that here,” he continued. “Just recently the school board approved a transgender–in Flagler County, approved the transgender act. It was voted 3-2. And Janet, tell me who were the three that voted on it.”
The school board had approved no such “act,” though McDonald was correct when she named Conklin, Trevor Tucker and Cheryl Massaro as the majority that approved adding the words “gender identity” to the district’s list of protections, as echoed by a Supreme Court and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decisions last year.
“These guys that are doing this are not voting for their community,” Mullins said. “I can tell you, the majority of this community doesn’t want that. They don’t want those problems here in Flagler County.” (Massaro was elected with 56 percent of the vote, Conklin with 52 percent, in a three-way race, and with a single exception, has not lost a precinct in any of her elections going back to 2000). “How many parents Janet were the ones that were behind all this. Wasn’t it one parent that was creating most of this movement?”
At that point, McDonald added to the falsehoods, claiming that “One parent because of one child in a very confusing situation” had led to the policy change, when in fact the student was not confused–he’d felt disparaged by his Matanzas High School teacher over his gender identity–and was one of several students, parents and faculty members who joined to push for a policy change, which the board ignored until the courts moved in a different direction.
Mullins’s and McDonald’s mischaracterizations of the transgender issue, along with Mullins’s attacks on local Republicans, set Conklin off.
“I can promise you as a member of this community since 74′ this garbage does NOT represent who and what Flagler County is,” she wrote, later telling FlaglerLive that she’d forced herself to watch the entire video to make note of the times of his most “outrageous” statements.
“We may be a conservative county but we are NOT a hate filled community,” Conklin wrote on Facebook, before turning to addressing McDonald without naming her: “Beyond disappointed to hear a school board member, a colleague fueling this garbage. It’s actually shameful. If you are a local Republican please keep in mind this is who is representing you. Is this what you support? Most of my friends are Republicans and I promise you they don’t hate the LGBTQ community. They don’t hate immigrants. They don’t peddle hate and division. They believe in personal liberties and don’t want to be told how to live. The hypocrisy of who is peddling this BS is outrageous to me. He needs to look in the mirror – Christian conservatives should be outraged that THIS is who is trying to represent them. “There are so many lies and misrepresentations in this clip I can’t even begin to tell you.”
Conklin said she did not “need the headache of being the target for this nut job,” but was compelled to respond. Of Mullins, who is originally from Georgia, she said: “He can go back to Georgia with that garbage and since he is so fond of threatening to send those who disagree with him out of Flagler on a train, I’m happy to buy him a train ticket and send him north. I have no choice but to share and feed this narcissistic beast and his rambling hate filled garbage. Now you will understand why he worked so hard to get me out of office. LOVE WINS.” (Mullins does not respond to questions from FlaglerLive though he frequently slanders it or racially slurs its editor on his Facebook page and in his weekly radio commercial.)
Cooley, the Flagler Beach Commission chairman and a Republican, had been first to publicly criticize Mullins about a year and a half ago, was once joined by fellow-Commissioner Rick Belhumeur, and more recently by Commissioner Ken Bryan, who told county commissioners in an impassioned speech that Mullins had violated his oath of office when he sponsored and joined a group that traveled to D.C. last January 6 to rally for the overturning of the election results. The rally led to the armed insurrection against the Capitol. All three Flagler Beach commissioners who have criticized Mullins are Republicans.
What this person says is NOT representative of the local Republican party,” Cooley wrote below Conklin’s statement. “It is vile, reprehensible, hate speech. This isn’t fixing issues. This isn’t working on making Flagler County better. Heck, it’s not even productive on ANY level. What did he accomplish from this? Nothing. This is Mullins hiding behind religion and a political party to push hate for anyone not like him or anyone that doesn’t agree with him.
Referring to the acronym that stands for Republicans In Name Only, Cooley continued: “It’s quite interesting to hear Mullins talk about other Republicans being RINOs that don’t agree with his hate speech, open racism, and bigotry when he in fact is a true Republican in name only. Why? A true republican isn’t anti ANY religion, a true republican doesn’t name call anyone who doesn’t agree with them, a true republican is capable of intelligent debate and problem solving with ALL other political parties, a true republican represents anyone regardless of race, religion, any sexual choices they make. Republicans handle issues, legislate, not dwell in lifestyle choices and try to pretend they are the moral police. This person is a bigot and religious zealot attempting to use the Republican party as a cover for his extremist behavior and hate speech.”
Cooley than addressed the Mullins video point by point, saying the Republican party isn’t interested in making Flagler a “Conservative christian prayer community to an extreme,” in “eliminating transgender people from this community and country,” or think that the Atlantas were killed because they were “sinning.”
“I could go on in volumes. Almost every sentence is a disgrace,” Cooley wrote. “This is not ok. This is not what Flagler County is.”
At one point in the video, Mullins said: “When I go out here and say something, they love to twist it, they love to turn it, but you know what it’s on radio, you can’t turn it, and I won’t say anything that I won’t stand behind. I may say some stupid things sometimes, and I’m human, and I’ll stand behind them.”
By Sunday, he had taken down the video.
The Mullins March 25 speech: