Hailey leaders are somewhat dumbfounded by a story published in The New York Times this week that depicted the city as “under siege” since May 2014, when Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released during a controversial prisoner exchange.
At that time, Bergdahl supporters planned a welcome-home party for the Blaine County soldier, who had spent five years in Taliban captivity. In response to the planned celebration, city merchants and City Hall received many anti-Bergdahl emails and other messages.
At least a few of the messages were considered threatening and illegal.
“There were two or three that were really mean and nasty,” said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter, who passed the messages to FBI agent Sarah Draper in Boise. “Whoever sent the messages were contacted and that was end of it.”
The New York Times story, written by Matthew Rosenberg and published Tuesday (Thursday in the Idaho Statesman), carried the headline “Long After Bergdahl’s Release, His Hometown Is Still Under Siege.” It states that a “crude bomb” was placed outside a Hailey business following Bergdahl’s release.
“That’s news to me,” Gunter said.
Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said he also has no idea where Rosenberg got the story of a bomb scare.
“I’ve never heard about a bomb,” said Haemmerle, who gave an interview to Rosenberg.
Haemmerle was quoted as saying, “There’s some really ignorant people who live some places in the West. They’re very right wing, they’re very militant, they’re very uninformed and they’re people with guns and with an attitude.”
Haemmerle said his comments pertained specifically to a conversation he and Rosenberg were having about a militia group that had taken over a federal wildlife sanctuary near Burns, Ore.
“I told him that our town had moved on from the Bergdahl threats long ago, that it was back to business as usual and that we were definitely not under siege,” Haemmerle said. “I told him there were 8,000 people in Hailey and probably 8,000 opinions about Bergdahl.”
Asked Friday about the questions raised by Haemmerle and Gunter, the New York Times provided a statement to the Statesman: “We are confident in the accuracy of the quotes and facts in our story.”
A records request made Friday for any records pertaining to a bomb placed outside a Hailey business was still pending by the end of the day, but Gunter repeated to the Statesman that he was not aware of any such incidents.
Bergdahl walked off his military base in Afghanistan in 2009. He is facing a military court-martial for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. If convicted of the second, more serious offense, he could spend his life in prison.
The Statesman’s Erin Fenner contributed.