In a Thursday afternoon sit-down discussion with The Dickinson Press, North Dakota’s District 36 Rep. Luke Simons, of Dickinson, categorically denied all allegations levied that he made inappropriate comments, harassed or touched anyone as claimed in documents that were released in Rob Port’s opinion column on Wednesday. Furthermore, he announced that he will seek a lawsuit for defamation related to the “unfounded” allegations.
In Port’s “More reports of inappropriate behavior from North Dakota Rep. Luke Simons come to light,” Simons is accused of inappropriate, sexual harassment allegations dating back to 2018. However, Simons noted to The Press that all of these allegations were “false” and part of a political attack directed at his ultra-conservative stances.
“What it has turned into is an agenda against my character. These are accusations that have come to me that simply just aren’t true. They’ve taken my words and distorted them into very, very sick concepts that just aren’t true…” Simons said. “And I have made political enemies because of my very conservative voting record and I do not apologize for my conservative voting record. I will not back up off of that one bit. But because they can’t beat me in facts and because we are gaining a lot of ground in the North Dakota Capitol, they have to attack your character and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
Simons added, “I know exactly how Judge Kavanaugh feels now. (They) have come against my character (and these allegations) are simply not true and most of these people in here, they’re trying to make me sound like some back hills hick that doesn’t know how to talk to people. Well, news flash, I’m a barber. I talk to people every single day and I believe that I usually can come across pretty straightforward (like) how Reagan would be. However, there are bureaucrats out there that are very much against conservative ideals and fighting against conservative ideals. This kind of stuff is to be expected.”
UNDER FIRE FOR INAPPROPRIATE LANGUAGE
Earlier this week, Simons was surrounded by a spotlight of controversy for comments he made toward Rep. Karla Rose Hanson, a Fargo Democrat, after she demanded him to put his mask on at the Capitol cafeteria. Simons replied by saying, “f--- off” and “you’re not my f------ mother.”
Simons issued a public apology earlier in the week and reiterated that he feels very passionate about the mask issue. According to Simons, the incident happened when several others were not wearing a mask and the sign was only a suggestion.
“The type of Christian I am, we don’t use that kind of language, and I certainly know all of the right words to say. I’ve been in the oilfield a good portion of my working career and construction as well. But I don’t try to make an effort to use that kind of language and the mask thing got me pretty worked up,” he remarked. “... As a Christian, I don’t condone that kind of language. Sitting in front of my daughters here, my wife, it’s wrong and for that, I am sorry… I don’t apologize for anything else that I said, but I do apologize for saying the F word.”
Port’s opinion article reported that Simon’s alleged abusive behavior has included female attorneys and staffers who serve the Legislature according to records obtained from the Legislative Council.
In one incident, female members of staff alleged that Simons gave them unrequested shoulder rubs.
“I don’t rub my own sister-in-law’s shoulders. I don’t touch women. Even (with) the people right here, the only ladies in my life. Even my own daughter-in-law, I don’t touch her. Why? Because it’s not right to touch a woman,” Simons said. “That is not true; I didn’t massage anybody’s shoulders. But what I am saying is these are a big, fat lie. Big fat lie. I never knew that politics could go down to this level ever in a million years. So no, it didn’t happen. It’s an accusation and I will see that person in court.”
According to the records, another incident occurred in January and alleges that Simons told a legislative intern “he’d like to put his hands in her hair.” Responding to the allegation, Simons said it was false. He noted that he told the intern that her metallic, dyed hair with split ends and recommended a conditioning treatment to fix the problem.
“I’m a big burly guy, I have cattle. I am big and I’m a barber,” Simons said. “So I could notice your hair from across the room and know exactly, probably what kind of product you’re using in your hair. Why? Because I work on hair all day long and I do consultations on hair, which costs you about $60 for a half hour. And I could tell you exactly what to use in your hair… In my current attire, you might think that’s odd. But if I was wearing skinny jeans and I had pink hair and I talked in a more soprano voice, you wouldn’t have any problems with that at all.”
In light of these allegations, Simons noted that this type of “political slander” was a direct attack on his beliefs and political stance more so than anything he has done. When asked whether he feels constantly under fire, Simons replied that he keeps recorded conversations with women behind closed doors much like what former Vice President Mike Pence did as a means to protect himself from false allegations — a practice he has done for years with nearly every conversation.
“No, absolutely not do I feel like that all of the time. Only some people with an agenda do I have to worry about. And I’ll be very honest, if you are a lady and I don’t know who you are, I am very guarded because of what’s happened because of this,” he said. “They knew this wasn’t true.”
Simons claims to have audio recorded all his conversations for more than two years, recordings he claims highlight the falsity of the allegations.
“What they’re saying is, ‘He’s a Republican, we’re going to attack him.’ They’re throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink so far, and I’m expecting that too,” he said.
THREAT OF CENSURE, EXPULSION
Simons has long been the “political enemy” of Democrats for his stance on a variety of issues, but noted that lines have been drawn within his own Republican party, with some talking about possible censure or expulsion.
Speaking with Port, Republican Majority Leader Chet Pollert, from Carrington, said that Simons’ future could be in jeopardy if continued incidents occur and addressed the incident involving Rep. Hanson.
"What Rep. Boschee told me yesterday is that he talked with the two ladies involved and they said if Luke had an apology they would accept that, but if something further happens then they're expecting something from the floor, whether it be a reprimand or censure," Pollert said.
According to Simons, there are “counterfeits” within the Republican party who he explained “simply have a R by their name” but were not upholding their oaths to their constituents or the U.S. Constitution.
“The old saying is if you walk like a duck, you waddle like a duck, you float like a duck, you swim like a duck, you fly like a duck, you quack like a duck — you’re a duck. And it doesn’t take very long to understand those things,” Simons said. “I have never once done anything wrong that they would have to censure me on. Now, what they’re really wanting to censure me on is showing the voting record, because they’re ashamed of their voting records. That’s what’s happening here.”
Democratic-NPL Chair Kylie Oversen said of Simons in a statement on Thursday that the embattled representative “has made it clear that he is without the capacity for remorse, that he is unfit for public office and that he should resign his seat immediately.”
"The North Dakota Democratic-NPL stands in full support of the women who have experienced sexual harassment, and we commend their bravery in coming forward and reporting these horrific incidents,” Oversen said. “We are left to wonder how many incidents have gone unreported. Unfortunately, Simons’ unhinged behavior continues without remorse, as he berates Legislative Council staff and calls for their resignation through a string of Facebook live videos."
Since his first day in office, the outspoken legislator has been an active and engaged social media user and has one of the most followed pages in the state, according to Simons. On his social media page, Simons releases legislator’s votes, a move that he says has garnered many political enemies.
“This whole saying is you have to represent your people. But first of all, let me explain myself. I don’t represent the people, I represent the Constitution of the United States of America and North Dakota,” he said, adding, “So by representing the Constitution and the state of North Dakota’s constitution, I therefore represent everybody. But to say that a legislator is supposed to listen to his constituents, does that mean I listen to the ones who scream the most?”
The mandated masks have been an issue for Simons since first implemented, and is something that he sees as violating the U.S. Constitution.
“... My point is I am fundamentally against what we’re being told to believe. And because of that, I am aggressive and I am talking about things that are very strong, and you can see exactly how I am. This is how I am; this is who they elected (in) the District 36, that’s who they voted in. If they don’t like it, they can throw me out of office next time around. But the Republicans can’t say, ‘This guy’s a little bit too much John Wayne for me,’ because that’s exactly what I ran under,” Simons said.
Though the back fire from the allegations could be devastating to Simons’ political career, he concluded that he is not going to change his stance. The oft-controversial Simons’ support in western North Dakota remains strong, with him garnering 5,145 more votes than his two political opponents in 2020, a landslide victory that witnessed Simons garner 38% of the total vote.
“I’m not too worried about this, to be very honest. In fact, if this wasn’t so serious I would find it hilarious because this is not true. I’ve lived in this town all of my life; the people in this community know me and they know that this is not me. That is not who I am,” he said. “I’ve been nothing but a gentleman… You’re going to have some Democrats that are upset with me, they’re always upset at me. I always tell them, ‘There’s only one solution — throw me out of office and replace me.
Simons reiterated his intentions to file lawsuits related to the releasing of the documents and the “defamation” he has experienced as a result.
“So who’s making these accusations? These accusations are coming from somewhere and they’re coming from somewhere with a political agenda… I don’t expect any fair hearing from my Republican rivals, who are Republicans but you wouldn’t know that by their voting record. There’s literally more Democrats that vote more conservative than they do,” Simons noted.
“I will probably sue the legal council is what I will do. There is somebody there that obviously needs to be relieved of their duties and I will sue, more than likely,” he said. “I should have sued in the beginning, but to be very honest I’ve never had any kind of accusations like this ever against me before in my life. So I was kind of taken back when this would happen.”
In a succinct final message to those in Bismarck, Simons said he would stay the course.
“I told you what I was when you hired me for this position. I’m a conservative, I won’t back off of it.”