We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.



Port: Cayler Ellingson deserves better than to be an avatar for cheap political talking points

In a better sort of world, where politicians and activists and social media rubberneckers were capable of a modicum of empathy and rational thought, we might have waited for facts that might support the conclusion before turning Ellingson's death into a political talking point. Sadly, we don't live in that world.

Cayler Ellingson
18-year-old Cayler Ellingson
Submitted Photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — Law enforcement officials investigating the death of 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson are saying they've found no evidence of political motivation in the killing.

What worries me now is that law enforcement will be harassed by the political demagogues — people emotionally invested in the idea that this death has its roots in President Joe Biden's divisive rhetoric — for failing to find evidence of something they've already decided exists.

09197201_gracecity6sot.Still002 (1).jpg
Shannon Brandt, 41, had his first court appearance via zoom from the Stutsman County Jail Monday, Sept. 19.

That's how it goes these days.

You either buy into the conspiracy theory, or you're accused of being a part of the cover up. I don't envy the task investigators have of discerning the truth around Ellingson's death with a howling mob of shouty, Trump-movement ninnies poised to pounce.

And yes, the investigation hasn't been concluded yet. There may still be some evidence to emerge that changes how we see Ellingson's death after an altercation with 41-year-old Shannon Brandt, but nothing has been uncovered to date to prove that Brandt was some sort of assassin inspired by Biden.


Yet that's precisely what the demagogues are claiming, based on nothing more than Brandt's self-serving explanations.

"Words can have violent consequences," Sen. Rand Paul said recently , referring to Ellingson's death. "President Biden needs to realize that his vilification of his opponents is inflaming some of his supporters to violence. As a victim of political violence, both sides need to recognize the consequences of heated rhetoric."

This strategy playing nice with lunatics will eventually blow up and start costing Republicans elections.
On this episode of Plain Talk, activists for and against a term limits proposal weigh in.
This is a situation that deserves better than the hot takes we're getting from Twitter demagogues and cable news creeps.
"I'm not smoking any pot," Dooley said on this episode of Plain Talk, which featured a debate between the two candidates. "He's actually accomplished what he says he's accomplished," adding that he's even gotten permission from Goehring to hunt on his land.
Believe it or not, it's possible to acknowledge that migrants crossing our borders illegally are engaged in a proud American tradition — how many of our ancestors were immigrants seeking safety and prosperity for their families? — while simultaneously believing that immigration ought to be regulated and orderly.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If Sen. Paul wants to lay the tragic death of a young man in rural North Dakota at the feet of the president, carrying on as if Brand were some terrorist radicalized by Biden's words, he ought to be able to point to something more than Brandt's claim of a political dispute as an excuse for running over and killing Ellingson.

He can't do that, because the only evidence we have for this incident being politically related is Brandt's words, which at this point seem more after-the-fact justification than before-the-fact motivation.

In a better sort of world, where politicians and activists and social media rubberneckers were capable of a modicum of empathy and rational thought, we might have waited for facts that might support the conclusion before turning Ellingson's death into a political talking point.

Sadly, we don't live in that world.

The irony in this is that many of the people leaping to the conclusion that Biden somehow has blood on his hands are the same people who refuse to acknowledge President Trump's role in inspiring the rioters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Biden is absolutely guilty of demonizing the political opposition, and that's not great, but Trump stood in front of an angry mob in Washington, D.C., incited the crowd with vicious rhetoric, some of it targeting his own vice president, and then sicced that mob on Congress as they were voting to certify the 2020 election.


Yet, somehow, Trump is as pure as the driven snow, and a viable candidate for the White House in 2024, while Biden is an accessory-before-the-fact to murder.


It's all so, so stupid.

Sen. Paul is right about one thing. Everyone needs to turn down the temperature of their political rhetoric.

If only people like Paul and others would follow their own advice.

Also, perhaps we should listen to some of the people in tiny McHenry, North Dakota, and the region around it, who are grappling with the loss of one member of their community and serious criminal charges against another.

"I think that's what bothers me the most. It has become something political, which it shouldn't be," Justin McDonald, a friend to the Ellingson family, told our Matt Henson. "This is nothing more than another person taking another person's life."

It's time for the ghouls out to score cheap political points to butt out.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
InForum columnist Jim Shaw argues it's high time for North Dakota to legalize marijuana. "I have never smoked marijuana, and don’t encourage it," Shaw writes. "However, the time has come for North Dakota, like 19 other states and Washington, D.C. to legalize it, regulate it and bring in millions of dollars in taxes."
“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Say thank you to those mentors who shaped who you are today.
Newspapers make political endorsements to provide voters insight and an opinion of the best candidate to govern. The final decision lies with each voter when they enter the voting booth.
Nick Stromme recently gave a beeswax candle and beehive demonstration a local 4-H meeting. Stromme increased his family's beehives from 500 to 3,500 growing the commercial honey business while he and his wife Lisa also utilize the by-products of wax and bee pollen for new products they sell locally.