The Case of the Backpedaling Football Coach

In the end, it all boils down to words. True or false? Chest-thumping or action-planning?  Most of all, when should words be taken seriously, and when should they be ignored?

These questions and others have been on my mind since Friday when I shared the story about a troubling Facebook post written by Frank Fales (pronounced fails), a well-known Cottonwood football coach who’s also the owner of a tree-service business.

The election results hadn’t been announced, and he was anticipating what might happen, especially to conservatives, after the election, should Joe Biden win.

Within a few hours of the story being published Friday, Fales wrote a comment in which he expressed his outrage about the story. (You can see his comment in the story’s comment section … keep scrolling, and scrolling). In his comment, he claimed he meant something entirely different from what he’d written:

“You completely twisted and mislead people about my post, I am not trying to raise arms against people that’s just crazy to say that. My point I was trying to make is that people have to stand and fight for what’s right in this world and in there lives. If some dumb people comment back to my post saying something stupid because they missed the point then I cant control that. I love my country and everyone in it regardless of race color or religion. This is slander and defamation of character, and my legal team will be involved if this is not corrected immediately!”

I wasn’t worried, because, as I pointed out to Fales in my reply, truth is libel’s defense. Of course I’ve kept the story up, and I stand by it.

Soon afterward, KRCR News Channel 7 ran a story about Frank Fales’ plight, with the unfortunate headline: “Cottonwood man speaks after Northstate blog misinterprets his Facebook post.”

I say “unfortunate” headline because the KRCR reporter left no wiggle room for the possibility that perhaps Fales wasn’t telling the truth, or that perhaps Fales had used the TV station in his frantic attempt to extricate himself from hot water that he’d created all by himself.

That was the KRCR reporter’s rookie mistake No. 1.

In the process, by making the assumption that Fales was being 100-percent truthful, the reporter cast aspersions upon the credibility of my story, and in turn upon this website when she topped the story with the headline that said I’d misinterpreted his post. I’d quoted Fales verbatim. No paraphrases. Not one. There was nothing to interpret. His words spoke quite plainly and without ambiguity, especially when read with the entire thread, and his friends’ comments, and Fales’ follow-up responses.

There’s a single word that comes in so handy, exactly for times precisely like this: “alleged.”

Rookie mistake No 2.

Golly, speaking of libel! Hello, Sinclair Broadcasing! How are you?

KRCR reporter Daisy Caballero interviewed Frank Fales, who claimed that his words in a Facebook post had been twisted on Food for Thought/A News Cafe. (Click here for the KRCR story.)

The reporter interviewed Fales in front of a lovely home (perhaps his), with a rocking chair in the background on the front porch. Fales stood next to a carving of a wooden Indian, which seemed a bizarre choice. Strangely, the news clip cut away a few times to show footage of waving American flags, which was relevant … how? Why?

During the KRCR interview Fales spoke earnestly about how he was a patriotic American, and of course he was not inciting real, physical fighting on his post, but no, he was referring to fighting using “voices”. He got pretty worked up during the interview, which reminded me of how you can tell when a little kid has done something wrong, because they get all riled up trying to convince someone they’re right.

The reporter – not Fales – claimed he’d posted his words with “good intentions”.

Rookie mistake No. 3. Don’t lead the witness. Let the story subject tell you about his intentions; not the other way around.

My hunch is that the KRCR reporter never saw Fales’ original post in all its guts, guns and glory, because by the time she talked with him he’d scrubbed his Facebook page clean of that post. How convenient for Fales. That meant the reporter lacked the full information about what exactly appeared on Fales’ page, which meant she relied solely upon what she read here, from the pieces I’d selected.

Rookie mistake No. 4. Get all the information first, before the interview.

Although I see holes all over the place with regard to that KRCR interview, Fales was happy with it. And why wouldn’t he be? He got a chance to completely change the meaning of his original words, and claim he was just exercising his “freedom of speech”.

Here’s his reaction to the KRCR piece.

God bless screen grabs

In retrospect, I realize that what I should have done with the original story was include screen shots of the most egregious statements from Fales’ Facebook post. That was my lazy rookie mistake, to just copy and paste text, rather than use screen grabs, which are more time-consuming. The thing with screen grabs of Facebook posts is they take extra time to copy, save and size, as well as to redact names with that little editing eraser feature, so Fales’ friends’ (yes, the ones he later called dumb people saying stupid things) names wouldn’t be made public.

I know. You’ll ask why I am being so considerate of those people who wrote horrible, violent words. It’s because my original story was about Fales and his Facebook post; a post he initiated. Plus, as a well-known Cottonwood football coach, he is a public figure of sorts, which means there’s a higher level of community expectations for him, as well as a lower privacy threshold.

At any rate, because of Fales’ insistence that I’d twisted his words – an accusation I take seriously – and because of the KRCR story that accuses this site of misinterpreting Fales’ “well-intentioned” post, I will post here today the screenshots that also include words I knew were Fales, but at the time of publication, were not attributed to Fales in the Friday story. I have redacted names that are not Fales’ in the conversation threads.

I redacted all the names with the exception of Fales’, as well as leaving in the last part of one man’s name, and leaving the “Jr.” for the sake of clarity. Note that sometimes it’s confusing to tell in these screen grabs who’s talking and who’s responding, so keep alert for the tiny Facebook thumbnail from Fales’ Facebook profile photo, in which he’s wearing a yellow shirt. Here, I’ve cropped out his wife, but you you get the idea.

I’ve not published every comment, but those I found the most alarming.

First, Fales’ post that started things rolling:



By the way, that last reply – “Time to stand tall – No more backing up” –those words were written by Woody Clendenen, the head of the Cottonwood militia.

Fales fails to convince

Understandably, because Fales has taken so much heat since his post went public, he now is doing some rapid backpedaling. He now says he couldn’t help what others said on his post, however, notice that not once in that thread did he intervene and say, “Whoa! Fellas! Knock off the talk about locked and loaded and other nonsense! So sorry if my post about weak-ass liberals, and when I said it’s time to call them out and when the smoke clears and the dust settles then we will see who’s really in charge — sorry if you got the wrong impression about that!”

Were Fales’ words fake or real?

What’s mind-blowing is that despite Fales’ anger and indignation over his Facebook post mess that was completely of his own doing, and despite his assertion that this website gone done him wrong, one might think he’d be on best behavior on social media, at least until the controversy blew over.

Likewise, you’d think someone in his precarious position would stick with his righteously indignant patriotic American interview script. You’d think he’d watch what he says and change his Facebook privacy settings, or block a few people, oh, like me.

But no. A look at his wide-open Facebook page showed his true colors once again. The thread began with his announcement that he’s leaving Facebook and moving over to the social media site called Parler. He, like many people who don’t like many of the other social media platforms, especially Facebook, are jumping ship and heading for other seemingly less-punitive, more lenient apps.

A woman expressed her disapproval in him.

That set Fales off to the races:

And that’s the thing about words, especially words that promote violence. Which are we to believe, and which are we to ignore?

“I’m tired of there Anti American shit! There response is oh your inciting violence. that’s how they keep us from fighting is by trying to make us be politically correct. Well enough is enough that shits done. It’s go time.” — Frank Fales


Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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