Colorado Mesa University (CMU) President Tim Foster appears to have quietly asked Mesa County Commissioner candidate Janet Rowland (R) to remove any mention of his name from her campaign Facebook page, effectively un-endorsing her — a reversal of his previous whole-hearted endorsement.
Since Foster didn’t tell the public he’s un-endorsing Rowland, we can only guess. But we do know that earlier this year, Rowland posted an ad on her Facebook page showing Foster endorsing her in his capacity as President of CMU — a big no-no.
People quickly spotted the fact that the ad violated laws that make it illegal for taxpayer-funded employees to politick using their official titles — the Hatch Act and the Fair Campaign Practices Act — a point previously raised in this August 13, 2020 blog.
The ad got Foster in hot water with the CMU Board of Trustees, and once the illegality was pointed out, Rowland revised the ad to remove Foster’s title, while keeping his photo and apparent personal endorsement.
But as Rowland started promoting Q-Anon conspiracy theories on Facebook, it got more and more untenable for Foster to endorse her.
In late August, 2020 Rowland started encouraging people to disobey public health orders to wear masks in the midst of the pandemic, and posted misinformation that encouraged her supporters to doubt the seriousness of the pandemic on her Facebook page — positions that were completely at odds with what Foster and CMU were urging students and staff to do at the university. The University had been taking the pandemic very seriously and spending vast amounts of money to educate student and staff, enforce masking and implement a vast testing program for the virus in an effort to safely re-open the school to in person learning.
Rowland’s public pronouncements were completely at odds with accepted science and University policies.
It soon became obvious that Foster and Rowland were in stark conflict on how to deal with the virus, and that Foster’s endorsement of Rowland flew in the face of University policies.
People started pressuring Foster to publicly reverse his endorsement of Rowland, especially since CMU offers undergraduate and graduate nursing programs and a physician’s assistant program, and especially since Rowland’s increasingly wacky, poorly-sourced, anti-public health urgings posed a distinct threat to public health and residents of the County.
Foster apparently saw the light and quietly asked Rowland to scrub any mention of him from her campaign page.
We can only guess this is what happened, because Foster did not publicly un-endorse Rowland. But what is clear is that Rowland used to have an endorsement by Foster posted on her campaign Facebook page, now no mention of Foster or photo of him appears anywhere on her page.
It’s gone. Clean disappeared. I even had someone else check it for me to verify it was gone.
Foster distancing himself from Rowland was the right thing to do.
We should all distance ourselves from Janet Rowland at this point.
But it was a huge disappointment that Foster, whose name is synonymous with education, un-endorsed Rowland so quietly, and in so doing abdicated a giant opportunity to educate all of Mesa County about the distinct threat Rowland’s candidacy poses to the County.