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Some Fresno council members criticize Bredefeld’s ‘divisive’ tweets. He doubles down

Amid statements made by Councilman Garry Bredefeld on Twitter over the weekend about “toxic masculinity,” abortion and other issues, some members of the Fresno City Council distanced themselves from Bredefeld’s ideologies — while also supporting his right to free speech.

Meanwhile, Bredefeld on Tuesday said some of his statements were taken out of context after The Bee first published a story online Monday evening.

Much of the online debate between the District 6 councilman and others happened after he retweeted anti-abortion messages last week. He sparred with some Fresno Twitter users over the term “toxic masculinity,” recent East Coast legislation on abortion and other “leftist extremist” language and policies.

During the online debate on Twitter, Bredefeld defended the tweets, and accused liberal politicians of using language to promote a “radical agenda.”

“Language is being used by leftist extremists to promote their radical agenda. ‘Right to choose’-kill unborn ‘Pay ur (sic) fair share’-steal our $ ‘Gun control’-take r guns ‘Toxic masculinity’-neuter men. Please don’t insult people who see through this nonsense. Be better than that,” Bredefeld tweeted.

While some on Twitter took offense to Bredefeld’s statements, there were also many who voiced support of his views.

Reaction from the council members varied.

“Garry has a lot of opinions,” said District 1 Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. “My job as a council member is not to engage in culture wars, but to bring policies forward that will help our working families and improve our neighborhoods.”

Soria said she’s been able to work across the aisle with Bredefeld on issues such as boosting the number of police dispatchers and funding for improving parks. But, Soria said, her focus remains on policies that will benefit the local community.

Miguel Arias, who represents District 3, pointed out that Bredefeld’s opinions do not represent an official city position.

“Our constitution provides a council member the right to his personal opinion, no matter how offensive it is to myself or others,” Arias said. “Residents should know his opinion is not the official city position on women, gender, religious or constitutional rights. If such opinions ever made it into proposed policy, the public should be confident that this council majority would swiftly act to oppose it.”

Councilman Nelson Esparza, who represents District 7, said elected officials should not perpetuate division.

“I respect the councilman’s First Amendment rights and freedom of speech, but strongly reject his divisive rhetoric,” Esparza said. “We live in a diverse and complex society where the constitution says religious freedom is to be respected, and all people from diverse backgrounds have equal rights. That is the perspective I think electeds should follow instead of creating more division and hate.”

District 2 Councilman Steve Brandau and District 5 Councilman Luis Chavez declined to comment. District 4 Councilman Paul Caprioglio said he didn’t see the tweets and had no comment.

Once The Bee’s story story published, some District 6 residents defended Bredefeld and said they didn’t regret voting for him.

Bredefeld on Tuesday took aim at a post made by The Fresno Bee on its Facebook page that stated he felt people who don’t agree with his ideas are “anti-American, anti-Christian and anti traditional values.”

The post was based on a quote Bredefeld made to the Bee on Monday, stating, “Many of those people who differ with what I’m saying, they’re like many of the people in this country who support infanticide, who are against God, who are anti-American, anti-Christian, anti traditional values, against police, and against military.”

While Bredefeld confirmed making that quote, he felt the Bee’s Facebook post twisted his words and does not represent his true thoughts.

Bredefeld on Tuesday, during a discussion with the Bee, clarified that his quote was directed solely toward people who have hatred of the United States — not toward people who simply have political opinions that differ from his own.

“The headline is inaccurate, misleading and does not reflect what I shared with (the reporter),” he said in a text message, about the Facebook post. “I was very clear that I am opposed to people who support the killing of babies. I am opposed to those who attack our police, the military, and that’s what I was expressing.”

However, Bredefeld also told The Bee it does not mean people across the board with liberal ideologies — who don’t share his views — are anti-American. “I’ve never felt that way,” Bredefeld said.

As an example, Bredefeld said some of his colleagues on the City Council have completely different political viewpoints than his.

Regardless, he has the highest respect for them. “There are people who are on the left side of the aisle, there are people who are on the right side of the aisle. They are as American as me,” Bredefeld said.

Victor A. Patton contributed to this story.
Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.