Politics & Government

Controversial tweets sink Trump supporter’s campaign for port commission

Under fire for posting controversial tweets, Jim Jensen on Wednesday withdrew his candidacy for Port of Tacoma commissioner. He has spent $115,000 of his own money on the race. June 5, 2017
Under fire for posting controversial tweets, Jim Jensen on Wednesday withdrew his candidacy for Port of Tacoma commissioner. He has spent $115,000 of his own money on the race. June 5, 2017 phaley@thenewstribune.com

A candidate for the Port of Tacoma commission is pulling out of the race after coming under fire for posting what he later admitted were “insensitive, unacceptable and unkind” comments on Twitter about women, African-Americans and others.

Jim Jensen, 37, apologized in a statement on Wednesday.

“Several tweets I wrote were completely insensitive, unacceptable and unkind,” he wrote. “I wrote things on Twitter that I don’t believe and certainly would never think were acceptable to say. They do not represent me as a person, husband or father.”

An environmental activist group called RedLine Tacoma as well as many others who are active in Tacoma’s political scene seized on the tweets this week and posted screenshots of them to social media. Jensen’s Twitter account was recently deleted.

Many of the tweets go back more than a year and show the writer effusively and consistently praising President Donald Trump (whom the writer refers to at one point as “dad”), blaming black people for crimes against whites and for not obeying police orders, using foul and crude language, gloating about the writer’s wealth while disparaging others, and making misogynistic remarks.

Jensen told The News Tribune earlier this week he did not remember writing the tweets and said he asked his campaign manager to contact Twitter to see if his account had been hacked.

Pressed for more information by The News Tribune, Jensen said Wednesday he decided to drop out of the race.

Several tweets I wrote were completely insensitive, unacceptable and unkind. I wrote things on Twitter that I don’t believe and certainly would never think were acceptable to say. They do not represent me as a person, husband or father

Jim Jensen, former candidate for Port of Tacoma commission Position 1

“I chose to run for the port to bring good jobs to our community,” he wrote in his statement. “Throughout the campaign I tried to bring people together, not drive them apart. These unacceptable tweets have undercut that hope, so I must now withdraw from the campaign. This is another way to prove that I am sincerely sorry for these statements.”

Jensen was one of Trump’s biggest donors in Washington, according to an interview he did with Seattle-based radio station KUOW shortly after Trump was elected, and he tweeted to Trump that he had “maxed out” financially in support of him.

In interviews, on his website and in campaign speeches, Jensen called himself an environmentalist, but at least one tweet highlighted by RedLine Tacoma cast doubt on that.

That Jan. 24 tweet was in reply to a tweet from Trump, which featured a photo of the president signing orders directing the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines to move forward.

The reply attributed to Jensen said: “Drill baby, drill! Energy independents (sic) and more jobs. Thanks Prez! Screw the greenies.”

When asked on Tuesday, Jensen said he did not write that tweet.

RedLine Tacoma posted a screenshot of that tweet on its own account this week.

“That’s something I would never say, so I don’t know where that could have came from, but I have no recollection of ever tweeting that or would never tweet that,” Jensen said.

Claudia Riedener, a founder of the group, said a researcher who is allied with RedLine found Jensen’s Twitter account after a local political consultant tweeted in March that Jensen was self-funding his port commission campaign to the tune of $115,000, a huge sum for any Pierce County race. That fund-raising figure piqued the researcher’s interest, Riedener said.

“@PortofTacoma candidate Jim Jensen calls himself an environmentalist,” the group wrote. “You might not know that from his Twitter feed, which is now deleted.”

According to screenshots, Jensen’s Twitter account had been open since July 2012. The account followed many Republican operatives and members of Trump’s inner circle.

Several of the tweets posted by the account are replies in long threads discussing police killings of black men, including the death of Terence Crutcher, who was unarmed when he was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma last fall.

“I still have not seen a black person ever following commands. If you don’t listen to the police, they will shoot you. Pretty simple,” according to a screen grab of one tweet from the account.

Other tweets were less political but could be considered offensive.

In one, Jensen’s account tweeted to Charlie Sheen, who announced in 2015 that he had contracted HIV. He said he hoped the actor dies from AIDS. In another, his account replied to actress and comedian Amy Schumer, telling her, “Fat, Dumb and Stupid is no way to go through life Amy.”

In another reply to a tweet from a senior writer from Newsweek, Jensen tweeted: “You will be hearing from my attorneys, you made me retarded after listening to you.”

Jensen said in Wednesday’s statement that his family has been threatened since tweets posted to the now-deleted account became public.

“I do care about my family and community and hope that you feel the sincerity of my apology,” he wrote. “For those people who have responded to these tweets by threatening me and my family with violence, please stop and consider this apology. If you can't forgive me, please limit your attacks to only me, not others.”

Jensen, a commercial real estate broker, was running for port Position 1 against longtime Superior Court Judge John McCarthy and former port security director Eric Holdeman.

He generated controversy earlier this week after telling The News Tribune that he was was against construction of a controversial methanol plant at the Port of Tacoma.

But in an April speech to donors he told a different story, lamenting that those plans fell though and calling it a missed opportunity.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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