Mike Lee compares listening to KSL radio to waterboarding

The social media post by Lee was in response to a post by KSL NewsRadio that said the Utah Republican Party had “been running into tough times.”

Sen. Mike Lee asked Utah Republicans if they’d rather be forced to listen to KSL radio or be waterboarded — a brutal interrogation technique that simulates the feeling of drowning and has widely been described as torture.

“Utah Republicans, if you were locked in a room forced to (a) listen to the NPR for an entire day, (b) listen to KSL for an entire day, or (c) undergo waterboarding, which option would you choose?,” Lee inquired to his “BasedMikeLee” following on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday night.

Lee’s question followed Republican backlash against a social post made Thursday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned radio stationed that said the Utah GOP had “been running into tough times” and asked its followers if they were “tired of the Republican Party’s antics?”

[Screenshot taken June 16, 2024] A screenshot of the Sen. Mike Lee's X account. On June 15, 2024, the Utah Republican asked his followed if they're prefer to listen to KSL, NPR, or be tortured.

Waterboarding, widely considered torture, is an interrogation technique that involves putting a piece of material over an individual’s mouth and nose and then pouring water over the material. The practice gained global criticism from politicians, American military veterans, human rights organizations and the United Nations after it was disclosed that U.S. officials were using the technique on war prisoners in the post-9/11 era.

According to a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report from 2014, waterboarding was describe by U.S. officials as a way to “induce a sensation of drowning.” At one time, the report found, the interrogation technique was described as evolving into a “a series of near drownings.”

The Senate report described the CIA’s post-9/11 integration techniques, which included waterboard, as “torture.”

Nearly 86% of 931 respondents to Lee’s informal poll said they’d prefer waterboarding.

“Waterboarding seems to be enjoying an early lead — over listening to either KSL or NPR,” the senator, a Latter-day Saint, said on X. “I totally understand.”

When asked by The Salt Lake Tribune to comment on the post and if Lee would prefer to be waterboarded or forced to listen to the Utah-based radio station, the senator’s communications directer, Billy Gribbin, responded with a meme saying the poll was a joke.

KSL said last week that the post deriding Republicans did not meet its journalistic standards, but that didn’t stop Utah Republican Party Chair Rob Axson saying KSL was “slandering” Republicans.

“KSL NewsRadio has long maintained a stance of political neutrality,” the radio station said in a statement Thursday. “As our guidelines state, ‘The more emotional, divisive and partisan an issue becomes, the more we present it factually as journalism rather than persuasively as opinion.’

“This morning, we did not live up to that standard in our treatment of a story about political fundraising and the Republican Party in Utah. We take our journalistic standards seriously, and we are handling the matter internally.”

While Axson called it “a start,” he said KSL’s statement “misses the mark.”

“First, it does not admit to falsely attacking and slandering the Utah Republican Party on radio and in social media posts,” Axson’s statement reads. “Second, there is no evidence of corrective action or immediate follow-through to ensure that libelous and biased attacks won’t happen again.”

Axson added, “KSL should conduct an internal audit of the bias displayed yesterday and in recent years, including a review of the culture or policies that have allowed opinion to masquerade as “news.”

KSL NewsRadio did not respond early Monday to a Tribune request to comment on Axson’s and Lee’s remarks.

Before Lee began his waterboarding poll Saturday, the senator conducted a similar poll, asking Republicans which they’d chose if forced to listen to KSL or NPR. Of the 517 respondents to that poll, 62% picked KSL.

One commenter said, “you can be certain both are lying to you. So does it really matter?”

“True,” Lee responded.