SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A bogus press conference may have been a joke, but members of the press and Utah's gay community weren't laughing.
A phantom blog posting and Facebook page announced that a group called "Patriots for a Moral Utah" were holding a press conference to unveil a resolution that would call for the removal or relocation of all gay people in Utah.
The proposal not only mirrored the "extermination order" that drove early Mormons from Missouri in the 1800s, but it also used language reminiscent of Nazi justification for the extermination of Jews during World War II.
The so-called press conference was held at the Utah State Capitol at 1:00 p.m. Monday. Members of the media and some gay community activists showed up to hear a statement read by a woman claiming to be Nora Young, a representative with "Patriots for a Moral Utah." Gay activists held placards in protest.
The woman claimed homosexuality was a lifestyle choice and that because of state's rights as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, Utahns should get behind the initiative that would force homosexuals to relocate to New York City, Portland or San Francisco. According to the woman who claimed to be Nora Young, homosexuals who chose not to relocate who be forced to undergo therapy that would "rehabilitate" them from homosexuality.
Another man claiming to be Paul Jackson answered questions after the woman's statement, and evaded questions from reporters who noticed similarities to the Nazi's "final solution" of jewish extermination.
The origin of the proposal was unknown, but a story on the Daily Kos reported
that the idea came from a TEA Party activist claiming to represent a group called "Patriots for a Moral Utah" with a Facebook page belonging to a Paul Jackson, a 1992 graduate of Provo High School.
Daily Kos later retracted the report as a hoax.
Jesse Fruhwirth, a blogger with Salt Lake City Weekly
who attended the press conference recognized "Paul Jackson" as Ashley Anderson, an activist who attended the recent climate summit in Copenhagen. According to Fruhwirth, Anderson claimed to be affiliated the Yes Men, a group known for elaborate hoaxes.
On their web site, the Yes Men claim their mission as:
"Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Our targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else."
ABC 4 News contacted Brandie Balken with Equality Utah for comment on the bogus press event. Balken said the Yes Men model for demonstration and awareness was "not our style," even though Equality Utah did not "...begrudge anyone's right to free speech."
Balken said she's happy that some people affiliated with Equality Utah felt empowered to make their voices heard at the state capitol on Monday but also understood they might feel a little embarrassed over feeling duped.
Balken also conceded that the expression of such extreme views might also perpetrate Mormon stereotypes.