Candidate denies he’s a vegetarian
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON
Gazette State Bureau
HELENA – Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown this week accused Democrats of spreading a false rumor that he is a vegetarian in this meat-loving state.
“I am not and have never been a vegetarian,” Brown said.
“I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana’s livestock industry.”
Brown did say that he and his family temporarily cut back on their consumption of meat and dairy products 25 years ago when they were caring for a dying loved one who couldn’t eat those products.
“It was the least we could do to make the life of a loved one more comfortable at a very difficult time,” he said.
Brown was responding to an undated e-mail sent by his Billings neighbor, Pat Etchart, to Dennis McDonald, chairman of the Montana Democratic Party and a Melville cattle rancher.
McDonald, in turn, forwarded Etchart’s e-mail to some cattle ranchers Friday and asked: “What do you make of this?”
The letter also has been send to agricultural publications and blogs.
In the e-mail, Etchart said that when the Browns moved next door in Billings, Roy Brown invited her husband and her to their house to get acquainted.
“In the course of conversation, he told us that he and his wife are vegetarians,” Etchart wrote. “At the time, I thought nothing of it, but as Roy now makes the rounds and campaigns for governor, I have a concern. Would it not be a problem, in a state where cattle ranching is such a vital industry, to have a governor who does not eat meat?
“What caused me to think about this is that I told my brother-in-law, a rancher who usually votes Republican, about it. And he said that he could never vote for a vegetarian, because it’s against his economic interest.”
Reached in Billings, Etchart, a Democrat, confirmed that she sent McDonald the e-mail.
Etchart said when Brown told her he was a vegetarian, he never mentioned anything about not eating meat because a sick relative was living there.
In response, Democratic Chairman McDonald said, “There’s a lot of good reasons not to vote for Roy Brown. Silly e-mails have got to be amongst the least of them.”
Brown said he has never used reports or rumors about Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and his family life for political gain. The Republican said he believed Schweitzer and Democrats had a similar commitment to run a campaign based on politics and fact “without targeting unrelated heartache and misconstruing that as partisan ploy.”
“If this was a simple misunderstanding, that would be one thing, but this is clearly an attempt by Gov. Schweitzer and his political hacks to discredit me amongst livestock producers, and it’s beyond offensive,” Brown said.