College Republicans' Ginty stunned by attention to 'f-word' e-mail controversy


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A University of Iowa anthropology/women's studies professor ignited a firestorm when she hit "reply" to a universitywide e-mail from the College Republicans last week.

But UI junior Natalie Ginty, who was on the receiving end of the profane message, said the controversy should have little to do with politics.

"It's not a Democratic-Republican issue," said the chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans. "It's an erratic versus unified and logical issue."

The 21-year-old Iowa City native and former head of the UI College Republicans has been catapulted into the national media spotlight after she was the first to respond to UI Professor Ellen Lewin's e-mail last week.

The message, which read simply "FUCK YOU, REPUBLICANS," was Lewin's response to Conservative Coming Out Week.

And the ensuing controversy, which has been covered nationally by Fox News, CBS online, ABC, NBC, and other major media outlets, has put Ginty in high demand. She has been contacted by the National Rifle Association, WHO Des Moines, an ABC affiliate radio program in California, and a CBS local station.

The biochemistry major, who has no political aspirations, has had to combat the attention for more than a week.

"She's always the one who wants to make [events] as noncontroversial as possible," said John Twillmann, the chairman of the UI College Republicans. "And she ended up in the middle of the most controversial event College Republicans has ever seen."

Ginty has always like politics, but she said she really felt the push to get involved when she noticed how underrepresented Republicans were in Iowa City. Former Congressional candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks' political career, in particular, inspired her. She hadn't been involved in any political groups at Iowa City West High, but she joined the College Republicans her freshman year at the UI.
And although her reaction has been stoic, the attention isn't stopping.

Fraudulent Facebook and Twitter accounts have been made in Ginty's name since the incident. But she shrugs them off, calling them "pathetic."

"It's been kind of a weird week," she said.

And the controversy is coming just as Republicans in Iowa begin the caucus season, with potential candidates beginning to visit eastern Iowa. So far, at least six potential candidates have visited the Iowa City area.

All of the attention — which has resulted in around 30 e-mails, a phone call, and personal interactions — took Ginty by surprise.

"I had no idea it would turn into national news," she said. "It spiraled really quickly."

Many of the messages were anti-Republican, including one phone call in which a man yelled about First Amendment rights and how Republicans are the "death of the universe," Ginty said.

The College Republicans themselves have received approximately 200 e-mails, around three-quarters of them negative.

But many of the messages reveal support from unlikely places.

Ginty said the most encouraging e-mail was typed by a transgender woman, who said it is more difficult to come out as a Republican than as a homosexual.

In fact, the difficulty for Iowa City residents to declare themselves as Republicans is something that's been brought to light during the controversy, said Bob Anderson, the head of the Johnson County Republicans Central Committee.

"The professor's intemperate reaction is part of a systematic occurrence that's been happening to conservative speakers and conservative events in our area," he said.

In light of the upcoming caucus season, Ginty said she thinks the attention College Republicans have received will help them bolster student involvement.

"I want to continue all the momentum," she said. "This is our end-of-the-year recruitment time."

She said the group would work to attract student Republicans to caucus and build a strong base of Republicans heading into caucus season.

"Some people get heated, some people divide up, but we all stay together in the end," she said.

Surprisingly, many Democrats in the community have come out in support of the College Republicans, Ginty said.

"We're not insulting the community. It's purely about being honest with your community," she said. "They're insulted by debutantes who use the words 'coming out' when they come out to society. Yet they're insulted by us. We're not trying to pick them out. It's just a clever title that we're going to use."

And though UI Democrats President-elect Nate Fiala said he agreed with Ginty's effort to notify university officials about Lewin's e-mail, he said the opposition should be expected.

"By making a big spectacle of it to the entire community, [Ginty] needs to realize that she will get backlash," he said.

The group now must ask itself whether the controversy will be a teachable moment, said Tim Hagle, a UI associate professor and the adviser for the College Republicans. Hagle has also been on the receiving end of negative e-mails with messages coming all the way from Delaware to Washington.

"Are people going to engage in conversation, or is it just going to be flames and nothing productive is going to happen?" he said. "We're just waiting to see."

For now, Ginty said all publicity is good publicity.

"I don't see this detracting us or hurting us. I can always see the positive side," Ginty said. "I mean obviously, it doesn't feel the best having a professor say those things, but hopefully, we'll get a public apology."

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