I won the reporter jackpot when I videotaped Carlos Zapata, Shasta County’s alt-right recall kingpin/militia member/bull-semen purveyor/restaurant owner/former Florida strip-club owner as he unleashed a raging verbal attack against me in public Tuesday.
Yes, it was uncomfortable being on the receiving end of Zapata’s abusive tirade before an audience that contained some of his most loyal, uncouth fans and followers.
Even so, it was gratifying to have yet more proof of Zapata’s true identity.
After all, this is a guy who, on the one hand claims he’s Shasta County’s savior. Yet on the other hand he embraces fighting and violence. Since the start of the pandemic last year, Zapata has called for “violent, violent confrontation” and blood in the streets, words directed at sane elected leaders and public health officials under the state’s jurisdiction trying to keep citizens safe in the wake of COVID-19.
Zapata, being his own worst public-relations enemy, repeatedly provides hundreds of examples of his twisted, sometimes violent mindset. Many nerdy, brave anonymous people spend a lot of time gathering and curating this information, and for that, I’m grateful beyond measure.
Here’s a sample:
There are hundreds of other screenshots that bear testimony to Zapata’s proclivity for violence and his reactionary aggressive threats and behaviors, much of which we’ve covered here on A News Cafe. We first wrote about Zapata a year ago when the formerly unknown Palo Cedro resident’s video rant went viral, quickly followed by Zapata’s refusal to comply with state pandemic mandates, and coverage of the birth of Zapata’s Red, White and Blueprint movement, and R.V. Scheide’s subsequent reviews of each episode, and Zapata’s assault of Pinkney, and Rebecca and Carlos Zapata’s radio show appearance, and the story of how Zapata was finally served with a restraining order, and on and on and on.
He’s written and said plenty of disgusting things about me since then, but Tuesday was the first time he unloaded upon me in person. I didn’t see it coming. I’ve avoided in-person board of supervisors meetings for months, mainly as a health, safety and sanity issue.
So I usually watch online from home. However, on Tuesday, ANC photographer Patricia Graves and I wanted shots of the walking solidarity crowd approaching the County Administration Center. I hadn’t seen Supervisor Patrick Jones’ social media post the night before that announced his plan to breach the board chambers, which is why Patricia and I were surprised to find a crowd inside. I knew there would be no official Shasta County video feed to watch the meeting virtually, so we chose to go inside. It felt like hostile territory.
A few people spoke before Zapata, which I wrote about.
I knew to activate my phone’s video recorder when I saw Zapata approach the microphone. He can be counted on to say something with high shock value. Every. Time. In retrospect, I believe he’d planned to say something else, but when he looked up and saw me recording, his eyes narrowed and his jaw set. His voice raised and he went off script and off the rails. As I recorded Zapata’s meltdown at the lectern inside that unpermitted meeting, I tuned out the words of that 42-year-old’s hostile temper tantrum. I focused upon my task at hand: Document, document, document.
The more infuriated and unhinged Zapata became, with each hurled insult, lie and personal attack, the more he succeeded in opening the Pandora’s box to reveal Zapata’s true self: an unstable, out-of-control bully with an inflated ego in dire need of anger-management help.
Reporters aren’t supposed to be part of the story
It’s considered unprofessional for reporters to interject themselves into the story. It’s even considered unprofessional to applaud, lest we tip our hand about whether we approve or disapprove. We’re eyes and ears there purely to observe, record and report. (Yes, some journalists, like me, offer opinions, too.)
But within the year since A News Cafe first began covering Zapata and his Red, White and Blueprint team and those trying to recall three supervisors, I’ve encountered things never discussed in any journalism class: Hate mail on steroids. Emailed death threats. Nasty anonymous phone messages. But most surprising of all are the in-person confrontations when I’m out covering a story.
I’ve been yelled at, cursed at, taunted and mocked. At the recent Mercy anti-mandate rally, RW&B supporter Kathy Stainbrook yelled my name and “fake news” from across the street, then approached me and tried to goad me into saying something. (I didn’t.)
For what it’s worth, Stainbrook has been known to recite scripture during the board of supervisors’ public comment period.
What would Jesus do? Not act like Kathy Stainbrook.
At the protest against Shasta County’s District Attorney, Supervisor Patrick Jones came up and made a big show of loudly saying my name, and said he hadn’t seen me since I was “fired from the Record Searchlight”. (ANC readers know what happened, because I’ve written about it.) Also during the anti-DA protest, it was like a receiving line of people coming up to say something ugly to Doni Chamberlain so they could scurry back to their group like a rat with a piece of dropped cheese. I stood toward the back of the crowd, where I took notes and photographs, which is when pretend-journalist Lori Bridgeford shouted my name, and demanded I come to the front and say something. (I didn’t.) By then my location had been identified, and others started yelling my name and insults, too.
A tall man in front of me who held an American flag over his shoulder turned around and asked if I was Doni Chamberlain, and when I said yes, he called me a piece of shit.
I have since learned his name, too. Meet Randy Hubbard. He hung out with the Proud Boys after Zapata’s arraignment.
He made a point of sitting beside me inside the courtroom for Zapata’s most recent hearing last week, which Zapata’s fans, family and friends sitting behind me thought was hilarious. “Bitter?” he asked with a grin. A woman behind me said, “She’s a c—t”. Hubbard pressed his right arm and right leg against me.
I loudly told him to not touch me. He made a show of leaning over to see what I was writing.
Now’s a good time to acknowledge and thank Doug Craig, longtime beloved ANC reader and contributor, who showed up at the DA protest. He literally stood beside me, arms folded, looking straight ahead until it was time for me to leave.
Then he walked me to my car and made sure I was safely on my way home. I appreciated Doug’s presence so much. Each time someone walked behind us I was on high alert that someone would do something.
However, as a female journalist with 27 years’ experience who’s been in some highly uncomfortable situations on my quest for a story, this is the first time in my life when I am reluctant to go it alone to cover someone like Zapata, the Proud Boys, the militia and other related groups and individuals.
I am a 65-year-old veteran journalist in Redding, California, in Shasta County in the United States of America. I shouldn’t require an escort to do my job. I shouldn’t need to defend myself against a militia member (possibly a Proud Boy) sitting beside me and trying to intimidate me inside a Shasta County Superior Courtroom. I shouldn’t have to write any of those words. But it’s my current reality.
As Woody Clendenen, Cottonwood Militia leader, said in a recent LA Times story, pretty much the only time he’s not carrying his concealed weapon is when he’s in the shower. Shasta County has one of the highest CCW rates in California.
At least once a day someone tells me to “be careful” to which I respond, “I am” because I am taking all the rational measures available to protect myself.
Those who are closest to me sometimes become angry at me. They wish I’d leave Zapata, the militia, the Proud Boys and their neo-fascist friends alone and write about something else. I hear what they’re saying. I understand. However, here’s how I feel about that: no. It’s not that I’m especially brave, because I’m not. The truth is that I’m more stubborn than brave. For me, as a journalist, the very fact that someone says a story is too dangerous to write about is exactly the story that needs telling.
These are uncharted waters for media, and I’m still figuring it all out. That’s why I’ve mentioned incidents a few times, but I’ve mainly downplayed them. It’s also why other media haven’t reported what I’ve experienced. We’re there to report. We’re not there to be part of the story, and that means stories about other reporters. Stick to the story.
That’s partly why, when I published the story about Tuesday’s meeting, I stopped short of telling about Zapata’s verbal assault. I was embarrassed that Zapata had hijacked a meeting that was supposed to be where healthcare workers aired their grievances about the upcoming required vaccines. Instead, he used the lion’s share of his talking time to come after me, a woman who’s literally old enough to be his mother. It’s amazing that Zapata could be so angry at a small independent online news site that he’s continuously characterized as puny and insignificant. I can only surmise that Zapata’s unhappy that ANC has uncovered the truth about him; a man who seems hell bent on destroying the Shasta County we know and love (mostly).
Zapata needs a steady supply of positive feedback and absolute adoration. He hates negative exposure; even when, paradoxically, Zapata’s the primary source of the unsavory material ANC reports that depicts him in an unfavorable light.
Wednesday, I compromised and included a hyperlink to the Facebook Live video that I shot of Zapata’s verbal assault against me. In the background many audience members can be heard, too. They clapped, they laughed, they hooted, they cheered, they cackled and they shouted obscenities at me as Zapata spoke.
Go to hell! Coward! Pussy! Communist! Slander!
And when Zapata had exhausted himself, and had said everything he wanted to say, he turned on his heels and left the building. Vintage Zapata, he didn’t stay to hear what anyone else had to say. As he fled the chambers, the majority of people in the crowd rewarded his boisterous show with a standing ovation. Some clamored to touch him, as if they wanted a bit of what he had to rub off on them.
While there were many of the usual extremist characters present, there were also some healthcare workers there to protest the state vaccine mandates.
Some of these people were new to Zapata’s aggressive rhetoric and his mob of deluded followers, all of whom are sticking to the story that the recall is about the pandemic, and their plan to “drain the swamp” of three supervisors who didn’t “stand up to the governor” with regard to state COVID-19 mandates.
While some people rushed to shake Zapata’s hand before he left the chambers, others sat stoically in the audience.
At no time during Zapata’s maniacal tirade did he empathize with those healthcare workers who’d marched in downtown Redding’s unhealthy wildfire smoke to arrive in the unpermitted board chambers to express their concerns about potential job losses if they refuse the vaccine.
Repeat something enough times, and it sticks in peoples minds
As usual, it was the Carlos Zapata show. It was all about him, and his litany of absurdities and lies, mixed in with some truths:
Zapata said I’ve lied about him. (False. The majority of ANC’s material about Zapata comes directly from Zapata himself.)
Zapata said I’ve lied about his family and friends. (False, again. Name the lies, and if they’re confirmed, ANC will post corrections.)
Zapata said I contacted his ex-wife. (True. I’ve had Zapata’s ex-wife’s phone number for a year, and contacted her as a last resort. I reached out for comment recently when ANC was fact-checking information for R.V. Scheide’s story about whether Zapata, as he claimed, was a combat veteran. It turns out that Zapata’s claim that he’s a combat veteran is false. ANC is working on Part 2 of a “No Combat Ribbon for Carlos” story. Stay tuned.)
Zapata said I tried to get Zapata’s ex-wife to say lies. (False. Besides, how would that work? I’d ask her to lie? Rather, I was seeking truth and corroboration from someone who would know the answer to the question about Carlos and combat.)
Zapata said it’s people like me who are making lives miserable for people who want to make this town better. (False. Good grief.)
Zapata said people like me want to poison children, and poison society. (False, as if it needs stating.) Poison, by the way, is one of Zapata’s pet words.
Zapata said I’m miserable because of my divorce. (False.)
Zapata said I had an ugly, public divorce. (True. Been there, wrote about it. Regular ANC readers were privy to that more than a decade ago. Old news, Carlos. Keep up.)
Zapata said I’ve never interviewed him, even though he’s offered many times. (True. I vowed last year to never interview him, after noticing Zapata’s pattern of threats, lies and attacks against media whose stories he didn’t like.)
I will never interview Zapata. (True.)
I will continue to investigate him and write about him. (True.)
(You can read a full transcript of his rant at the bottom of this column, below.)
Zapata routinely accuses media of lying about him, when actually, the script is flipped.
A News Cafe reporter R.V. Scheide experienced Zapata’s version of pulling the rug from under Scheide with a lie when Zapata reported on Facebook that he planned to leave the Red, White and Blueprint movement. Scheide, being the intrepid reporter he is, posted the information on Facebook. Zapata was messing with R.V.
Who needs to fact-check information when it comes from the horse’s mouth, right? Wrong. Not when Zapata’s the horse and his mouth is moving.
It’s interesting, because what we have here is Zapata lying about lies. He’s like a Walmart parking-lot aged-out pony who goes around and around, repeating the same lie about lies loud enough and often enough that his gullible fans believe it.
Do any of these fans ever stop, think and ask, “Carlos, exactly what lies are people telling about you?”
Probably nobody who’s under Zapata’s spell of influence will do that. However, it wouldn’t matter if they they did ask, because history can predict how Zapata would handle the question: with a lie.
For his Tuesday speech, it appears Zapata’s borrowed a well-worn page from his fellow Red, White and Blue comrade, Vladislav Davidzon’s “marketing 101” playbook. On Aug. 12 Davidzon responded to an email from a site administrator on the progressive Facebook page, Weirdo Socialist Club, after Davidzon was asked about his unrelenting messages. That’s when Davidzon disclosed what appears to be Red, White and Blueprint’s strategy.
“Content does not matter. The point is that people consistently see messaging that our supervisors are bad, evil, incompetent and corrupt. You repeat something enough times, and it sticks in peoples minds. This is basic marketing 101. I have the biggest megaphone in town, and I am using it systemically to tear down the supervisors. Not a damn thing you can do to stop me … You say something enough times, and it sticks in peoples minds.” – Vladislav Davidzon Aug. 12 email.
Maybe all eyes weren’t on Zapata
At one point during his rant Zapata told me to look at him. Maybe even from the distance between us, from where he stood at the lectern, and from where I stood near where Supervisor Mary Rickert would usually sit, Zapata may have noticed that he didn’t have my rapt attention; that I was distracted. His eyes were not deceiving him. Instead of keeping my eyes on Zapata, who barked his words like a snarling, rabid, junkyard dog, I turned my attention away from Zapata. Instead, seeking peace, my focal point was Jeremy Edwardson; Red, White and Blueprint’s producer. As Zapata yelled, Edwardson stood still, as if his feet were glued to the floor. Edwardson’s face betrayed no emotion as he leaned against the wall behind some stunned-looking people.
Edwardson is the son of a pastor. He’s a brother, father, husband, and Grammy-nominated producer of songs about Jesus, God and love.
One man in the audience did holler to Carlos to stop and let me speak, which only seemed to irritate Zapata further, because he knew I wouldn’t speak or answer questions in that setting, no more than KRCR TV anchor Mike Mangas would take the bait earlier from pretend-journalist Lori Bridgeford, who criticized Mangas during the meeting, disclosed personal information about his career, and tried to goad him into coming up to say something. Mangas shook his head slightly, and kept videotaping Shasta County’s latest insanity before us.
Some in the audience did not cheer their approval of Zapata during his eviscerating diatribe. For example, I did not see Edwardson applaud as Zapata raged on.
I observed the flat affect upon Edwardson’s face, and some of the faces around him. Likewise, while some audience members were hooting and screeching profanities at me, Edwardson did not look as if he was enjoying Zapata’s speech.
I’m not sure if Edwardson could tell that I was looking at him, but as Zapata ranted on, I found myself wondering about Edwardson. I wondered how in the world someone with Edwardson’s reputation for a high moral caliber and traditional Christian upbringing had gotten mixed up with Zapata and his smarmy underbelly world of bars, strip clubs, cruelty, glorified violence and Lord knows what else.
I wondered if Edwardson ever tired of cleaning up after Zapata’s mistakes, missteps, messes and bad choices.
I wondered if Edwardson sleeps the blessed slumber of a man with a clear conscience.
Those thoughts were among those that got me through Zapata’s entire speech.
Red, White and Blueprint’s video was better, but it’s gone
For a day or so, Red, White and Blueprint’s version of Zapata’s verbal assault of me was posted front and center on RW&B’s Facebook page, which was a head-scratcher, since it showed Zapata at his absolutely least-flattering state of emotional decomposition. No matter. I took the opportunity to post RW&B’s video in my story, because their video is professionally produced, and of superior quality. Thanks to RW&B’s $100-a-plate fundraisers and $499 sweatshirts/memberships and merch galore that RW&B hawks non-stop to its fan base who are supposedly starving because of pandemic mandates, Zapata can afford a team of trained videographers and producers. A News Cafe lacks those kinds of resources, but we do OK.
But lo and behold, perhaps some of you noticed that the RW&B version of Zapata’s yellfest disappeared. (Sorry for the confusion.) Poof. Gone.
Shall we take bets what happened? I’ll go first. My guess is that Zapata’s attorney took one look at Zapata’s video and told him to remove it, after which Joseph Tully probably popped another antacid, screamed into a pillow and pulled out his remaining hair.
Thank goodness I still have my version. It’s not perfect, but it tells the story just fine. And thank goodness for smart people and techies who’ve saved RW&B’s version. God bless the good, intelligent people.
Zapata said something at the beginning of his speech that I didn’t capture because I started recording after Zapata started speaking. But I remember what Zapata said.
“Well, It’s been a year.”
Suddenly, it all made sense why Zapata was there on that particular day. Like a washed-up guy reminding people about how he was his high school’s star quarterback, Zapata doesn’t want us to forget that this very time last year was when his booming extemporaneous speech at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors went viral and catapulted him into the spotlight as Shasta County’s alt-right super star. That speech created an attention-addicted monster who won’t stop until he divides, destroys and weaponizes Shasta County, and makes it into a place only hospitable to people like him, the militia, the Proud Boys and worse.
In Zapata’s Aug. 2020 rant, he threatened the supervisors. He mocked those supervisors with face masks as cowards, and said he didn’t blame them for covering their faces in shame. Zapata said that people like him wouldn’t be peaceful much longer. That was also the first time we heard him brag about being a combat veteran, which we now know is false.
It was the first time he mentioned the suicides of six fellow Marines because of the pandemic mandates, which, at the time, was sobering and horrifying. Now, those claims only cast further doubt upon everything he says.
“When you see the things I’ve seen — I went to war for this country. I’ve seen the ugliest, dirtiest part of humanity. I’ve been in combat, and I never want to go back again, but I’m telling you what, I will to save this country. If it has to be against our own citizens, it will happen, and there’s a million people like me, and you won’t stop us.” – Carlos Zapata’s speech at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting, Aug. 20, 2020.
Tuesday, the year-older, Aug. 2021 Zapata did not stand tall, arms crossed with his fists pushing out his biceps. This year, he was sprawled over the lectern as if he suffers from lactose intolerance and he’d chugged a Dairy Queen Cotton Candy Blizzard on the way to the chambers.
Did you notice something else? He wore the same shirt on Tuesday that he wore at the Aug. 2020 Board of Supervisors meeting. Maybe he’s sentimental. Or maybe he thought that Tuesday’s speech would go viral like last year’s, perhaps restoring his sagging popularity.
Transcript of Zapata rant
I’ve listened to the video of Zapata’s angry message too many times already, and those are precious minutes I’ll never get back. We’ve transcribed his statement, so you can read it.
“Our children do not deserve what they’ve gotten over the last two years. They have done nothing to deserve the restrictions and mandates, the stress, the horrifying trauma that they’re having to endure by having to cover their faces, by having to go to school, by having to watch their parents stressed out. This is the nexus that we’re facing right now, of stresses in our life, and they do not deserve any bit of it.
And when you have people like Doni Chamberlain, who is the only person in this room right now wearing a mask, covering her coward face, [crowd cheers] telling lies about me, about my family, about my friends, contacting my ex-wife, the mother of my children, trying to get her to say these lies. How did that work out for you, Doni? Tell me. You want to speak here? [crowd cheers] The microphone’s yours.
The very man that you have been writin’ about … Well, I don’t know what he would do with your life if it wasn’t for me, Doni Chamberlain. [crowd cheers] The one man that you lied about the most, and you don’t have the stones, the courage, the moral fortitude to interview me one time. Have you ever reached out to me and sat down for an interview? I’ve offered that to you many times, Doni. But you and your coward photographer, your coward little staff that you have, your 25 followers that read your bullshit little articles. [Woman in audience: ‘COWARD!’]
Yep, coward. You are a coward, Doni Chamberlain. It’s people like you that are making this life difficult for our children, for people that actually want to live in this county and make it better.
[Woman in audience: ‘Go to hell!’]
Look at my eyes, Doni, because I’m speaking to you. [Man yells: ‘Let her respond‘] If you think we’re going to cave, if you think that we’re going to give in because you write about us, our families, our children, you’re wrong.
[Woman in audience: ‘That’s slander!’]
This is our county, Doni.
[Woman in audience: Pussy!]
We’re fighting to take it back from people like you, from people that want to poison our children, people that want to poison our society, that want to poison the very place that we’re invested in. I’m sorry you’re miserable. I’m sorry you went through a humiliating divorce. I’m sorry your husband cheated on you publicly and that’s why you’re so miserable and mad at the world. I’m sorry that happened to you.
[Man in audience: ‘Carlos! Let her respond! Do you have a response?‘]
There’s nothing. She will not say a thing. She has vowed to never to interview me, and here we are, face-to-face. So, you want to sit next to me in court? You want to follow me around? You want to have your people spy on me? You want to investigate me? Well, here I am.
[Audience member: Here we are!]
This is what we’re up against, people. And listen, [Crowd noise] let’s not give her anymore credit than she deserves.
[Audience member: Communist!‘]
This is what we’re up against. We’re up against people that will say anything and do anything to hurt our children, to hurt us. And we have to stand up.
That’s right. [Audience cheers].
Enough’s enough. Say no. And listen, the worst thing you could be is mediocre. The worst thing you could be is neutral. Pick a side. Hot or cold? I’m tired of hearing people that say, ‘We support you, but I don’t want to lose my job.’ Too bad. Get on the other side. I’m sick of people that say, ‘I love what you guys are doing, but I can’t speak up.’ Too bad, get on the other side … we will fight, and we will win.
[Audience breaks into loud cheers and applause.]
It’s a rare day when Zapata and I agree on anything. Today is one such day.
I agree with what Zapata said about choosing sides. He’s absolutely right. It is time to choose sides. It’s not a matter of left versus right, Republican versus Democrat, or even people who are displeased with the government versus those who love everything about the American government, because there probably isn’t an American alive who doesn’t have some gripes about our government. Anyone who’s ever pulled a building permit in Shasta County knows what a maddening, expensive process that can be. So the system is imperfect. Civilized citizens don’t go scorched earth. They collaborate and cooperate to find solutions.
Shasta County is fractured in two pieces. On the alt-right side is Carlos Zapata, the militia, the Proud Boys, Confederate flags, State of Jefferson fanatics, Oath Keepers, White Supremacists, Christian zealots, recallers, and variations and degrees of all of the above.
On the other side is a motley collection of imperfect people like us. We represent a wide variety of ages, religions, occupations, incomes, political parties, races, beliefs and backgrounds.
What we share is a willingness to roll up our sleeves and work to save Shasta County, and make it into a place of pride again.
“The worst thing you could be is neutral,” Zapata said. “Pick a side.”
I know which side I’m on. How about you?