FLORENCE — Dave Hurtt will be the first to admit that his sense of humor can sometimes take an odd turn. And he’s now ready to say that his latest attempt at humor may have gotten a little out of hand.
The Florence-area rancher spent close to $700 this winter to build an outhouse with the sign “Obama Presidential Library” tacked to its side and to buy the smaller trailer that he’s used to transport it to events in Ravalli County and beyond. The idea came to him from a photo he saw on the Internet.
“It was just meant to poke fun,” Hurtt said. “It’s apparently been taken in a different light.”
The bullet-riddled outhouse, with graffiti reading “For a good time, call 800-Michelle (crossed-out), Hillary (crossed-out) and Pelosi (circled in red)” and a fake birth certificate stamped “Bulls**t,” captured national attention after Hurtt parked it outside the recent Montana GOP convention in Missoula.
On Wednesday, a Washington Post editorial used Hurtt’s outhouse as a metaphor for what’s wrong with today’s political discourse after a story about its appearance at the convention appeared in news outlets across the country.
That sent Republican Party officials at county and state levels scrambling to distance themselves from Hurtt’s creation.
Montana Republican Party director Bowen Greenwood said he was offended that the media implied that the outhouse was somehow connected to the convention.
He said GOP officials had it moved as quickly as possible after it was brought to their attention.
“We reacted and now the world is saying it was our outhouse and we didn’t do enough to address it,” Greenwood said. “That, to me, is offensive.”
Since the story hit the news wires, Greenwood said his office has been inundated with “profane and offensive phone calls from people around the country and state,” complaining about the outhouse and the party’s reaction in addressing it.
Hurtt’s humor has become a royal pain for Greenwood. “If anyone else out there owns an outhouse, please don’t bring it next year,” he said.
Ravalli County Republican Central Committee chair Terry Nelson said the outhouse will be banned from any future events planned by that organization for the remainder of the election cycle. Bitterroot Republicans first saw the outhouse at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Luncheon in February, and Nelson said not everyone was thrilled.
“There were certainly some who saw the humor in it and others had grave concerns about it,” Nelson said. “It hasn’t been widely accepted since Day One.”
Nelson wants people to know that the central committee had nothing to do with the creation of Hurtt’s outhouse.
“While we certainly appreciate people’s ability to practice free speech, we will require that it not be included in any events that we will be doing in the future,” Nelson said. “We have a lot more important issues to worry about than an outhouse.”
Deb Essen, of Victor, has her own concerns about Hurtt’s outhouse. Inside, on its back wall, under a heading called “Donors and Depositers,” her name appears sandwiched in between Acorn, Maxine Waters and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“I was quite taken aback by that,” Essen said. “I don’t know what I ever did to get Dave Hurtt mad at me.”
Essen thinks the only time she’s actually spoken to Hurtt was one brief conversation when she asked if he would like to sign a petition for an initiative addressing minimum wage or government ethics.
She plans to ask for a public apology from both Hurtt and the Republican Party. Essen doesn’t buy the idea that party officials are blameless in the whole affair.
Hurtt chalks it up to politics. He said the other side has done its share of pulling stunts that put its opponents in a bad light. He’s seen photographs of President George Bush and Sarah Palin hung in effigy at various events around the country. He even saw one where Bush’s head had been put on a spike.
“They don’t think that’s tacky,” Hurtt said. “They say it’s just politics.”
Hurtt was amused when folks claimed they didn’t know who owned the outhouse. He’s been willing to stand up and tell people it’s his right from the very beginning.
In fact, Hurtt said he respects the office of president. He just doesn’t care for the current occupant.
The stick-on bullet holes he put on the “Obama Presidential Library” sign was just meant to make it look more authentic and was, in no way, a direct threat to the president, he said.
And that old portrait of a black man taped to the inside of the outhouse wall with the word “Dad” taped just underneath isn’t meant to be racist. That came from his father-in-law’s old secondhand store.
“It’s just a picture,” he said. “There’s nothing racist about it. It doesn’t say Uncle Remus or anything like that.”
Hurtt said he’s been kind of taken aback by the reaction that his outhouse has created, especially from some in the Republican Party.
“They first saw it at the Victor Steak House at the Lincoln-Reagan Luncheon in February,” he said. “Nobody seemed to object to it at that time.”