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April 25, 2019

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Amodei, the teen and the F-word: Answers to 5 burning questions


Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., speaks at the 19th Annual Lake Tahoe Summit at Zephyr Cove, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in South Lake Tahoe, Nev.

It was an F-bomb heard from coast to coast.

U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei became the subject of national media attention this month when one of his staffers notified administrators at Robert McQueen High School that one of its students had used coarse language in a phone call to the Republican congressman’s office. The student, Noah Christiansen, a junior, was participating in a demonstration calling for stricter gun regulations when he made the call.

Christiansen was suspended, which prompted the ACLU to intervene.

In the days since, more information has emerged about what happened. Here’s an encapsulation based on several news sources and from an excellent segment on the issue Tuesday on Las Vegas radio station KNPR’s “State of Nevada” talk show program. To hear the entire 34-minute segment on the program, click here.

In what context did Christiansen swear?

Christiansen told KNPR he used the F-word once, telling the staffer that “Congress (members) should sort of get the f--- up and do something.” That was the only swear word Christiansen said he spoke during his call. He said he recognized that he could have used a different term, but “still it’s my right to say those words just like anybody else.” When he used the word, he said, “I was angry that nothing was happening and kids are dying in schools.”

Is Christiansen a problem kid?

Not even close. He’s an A- and B-student, takes advanced placement classes and finished high in the state debate tournament. He said he’d never received a detention, much less been suspended.

Where was Christiansen when he made the call?

Outside of the school. He’d been given an unexcused tardy for taking place in a demonstration against gun violence.

What was Amodei’s involvement?

The congressman said he didn’t know the staffer had contacted the school until days later. He said the staffer, who has handled constituent services for a number of years, opted to call the school because of the “tenor, tone and language used” by Christiansen.

“We didn’t ask that the guy be punished, we just wanted to report a certain behavior,” Amodei said.

Amodei said Christiansen, like other constituents, “can call up and say just about anything he wants.” “But then my guy also gets a right of free speech, so he did was he felt was important given his experience.”

So where do things stand?

Christiansen’s suspension was lifted. But he also was barred from taking office as junior class secretary, and his status as a class officer is still uncertain.

Meanwhile, neither side is apologizing. Christiansen said it was “pretty major” for Amodei’s staff to call his school considering that the congressman’s office ostensibly doesn’t notify the employers of adults who use coarse language in calls to the office.

Amodei said he’d discussed with his staff the need to notify him on such matters.

“In the future, let’s include the guy whose name is on the door in these things,” he said.