Ex-Salt Lake GOP leader threatens to sue state officials who condemned him on social media

Claim from former communications director decries commentary as small as Facebook “likes” after several Republican women accused him of misconduct.

(Steve Griffin / The Salt Lake Tribune) David Robinson, then a Republican candidate for Salt Lake County mayor, talks with the Salt Lake Tribune editorial board in 2017. Robinson, formerly an unofficial communication director for the county Republican Party, was accused by more than a half dozen women of harassment, name-calling, body shaming and other inappropriate behavior.

The Salt Lake County GOP’s former communications director is threatening to file a $30 million lawsuit because of the condemnation he experienced after multiple women stepped forward claiming he had harassed and bullied them.

In his Wednesday notice of claim against the state, Dave Robinson documented statements, social media comments and even Facebook likes from dozens of Utah politicians and elected officials, amounting to what he asserts was a “concerted effort to defame him.”

The notice is not a lawsuit; it is a step required before a suit can be filed against a government agency or employee. It complains that Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson publicly denounced Robinson over the harassment allegations — and that criticism from these high-ranking state leaders “opened the floodgates for elected officials and others to dog-pile and condemn.”

In a March article published by The Salt Lake Tribune, more than a half dozen Republican women said Robinson engaged in harassment, body-shaming and other inappropriate behavior. In his claim, he denied the accusations.

The women also alleged that then-Salt Lake County GOP Chairman Scott Miller dismissed their complaints about toxic dynamics inside the party. After the accusations came to light, Miller was steadfast in his support of Robinson, though he ultimately stepped down from his party position after Salt Lake County Republican representatives issued a statement calling for his resignation.

Responding to The Tribune’s article, Henderson wrote on Twitter: “I’m heartbroken to learn that women who stepped up to run for political office faced harassment and discrimination from people who were supposed to be helping them. It’s never ok to normalize, enable, or dismiss this kind of behavior.”

According to the notice of claim, dozens of other prominent Republicans also condemned Robinson over the allegations, which he denies in the 48-page document. It includes criticism of The Tribune’s reporting and a timeline of statements made in response to the article, lists social media posts by state officials and quotes from a podcast hosted by a state senator.

Robinson is alleging the accusations and “fast and furious” denunciations have caused him emotional distress and cost him money by damaging his professional reputation.

“The number and level of prominent and influential elected officials and their staff members, condemning, ‘sharing’, and ‘liking’ the cultivated news stories against Robinson, a private citizen of Utah, is shocking and unheard of,” the claim states.

The notice states it was delivered to the office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. A spokesman for the office declined to comment on the document.

The claim portrays the allegations as the product of a coordinated attack and questions the credibility of the women who stepped forward and officials who supported them.

When asked by The Tribune earlier this year about the allegation that he made inappropriate comments about women’s bodies, Robinson said he criticizes his own appearance in disparaging ways. He also brought up his family background in ranching.

”Keep in mind, I come from a very, very, very high level of judging horses and livestock and being very critical. OK, I have a critical eye,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean that I’m degrading an individual.”

And in the notice of claim, Robinson contends that it was appropriate for him to discuss appearance and clothing with candidates for elected office.

The document notes that Robinson once advised a congressional candidate to “reconsider her makeup choices” and offered her a professional makeup artist. The candidate accepted, spent “hours with a makeup artist at Robinson’s condo, and was very happy with the results,” according to the notice.

The filing also credits Robinson, an unpaid volunteer with the GOP, with helping the party to key election victories in Salt Lake County and includes emails in which he touts the diversity of its candidates.

“Although Republicans are frequently pigeon-holed into white, hetero, bland, our County Party shows great diversity,” Robinson wrote in a December email included in the filing.

In his initial resignation statement, Miller apologized for the way he handled the complaints against Robinson and said he had made a mistake. He later recanted that and claimed he was being “Kavanaughed.”

Party volunteer Chris Null was elected in April to replace Miller and took office with promises to “leave all the negativity behind.”