Thursday, February 11, 2016

Michele Fiore, the gun-toting, calendar-posing politician who negotiated the Ore. occupiers’ surrender

It was the most cinematic of moments, and Michele Fiore was not going to miss it.

As helicopters swirled overhead and heavily armed FBI agents crept ever closer, the four frantic, fearsome anti-government occupiers still inside the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge heard a familiar voice on the telephone line.

“We’re putting our big-girl panties on now, and we are taking America back.”

Michele Fiore to the rescue.

From the floor of the Portland airport five hours away, Fiore, 45, proceeded to act as the occupiers’ de facto negotiator, at times agreeing with their radical views and at others, calming them down. The Nevada state assemblywoman and occupation supporter said she had spoken to the FBI and received assurances that the Feds wouldn’t kick down the door Wednesday night. And when one of the occupiers worried that government snipers were going to kill everyone inside the cabin, Fiore insisted everything would be alright.

“We’re going to make it through this, and we’re going to write about it,” she said on the occupiers’ live-streamed conference call, monitored at one point by about 64,000 people.

By night’s end, the occupiers had tentatively agreed to turn themselves in Thursday morning, largely thanks to Fiore’s intervention, although that deal conceivably could be in jeopardy after the arrest of Cliven Bundy.

“Fiore has really given the holdouts a sense of purpose,” tweeted John Sepulvado, a reporter covering the standoff for Oregon Public Broadcasting. “Regardless of what you think of her politics — [she] clearly diffused the situation.”

The brash, blond Las Vegas grandma is one of the most colorful, controversial political characters in the country. She has posed in racy wall calendars with an assortment of semi-automatic rifles. She once wrote, produced and starred in her own movie.

She is a staunch Republican who wears cowboy boots and packs a pistol at all times — even in gun-free zones, she says — yet she also backs gay marriage and marijuana legalization. She is a fiscal conservative who at one point owed the IRS more than $1 million. And she is a congressional candidate who keeps saying outrageous things, often about shooting people in the head.

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