Our Voice: SD Cattlemen's president should resign

American News Editorial Board
Farm Forum

The right thing for Steve Ollerich to do is resign as the president of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association.

In his recent “Shootin’ The Bull” column published in the association’s newsletter, Ollerich started by writing about respect in politics.

“Never in history have we seen such political divide,” Ollerich wrote. “I don’t care what party you are loyal to, respect should be shown to whatever party is in charge.”

While the “never in history” caveat is likely an exaggeration, there’s nothing wrong with his call for respect. But ironically, his column closed with a disgusting, disrespectful “joke” before he signed off.

Without printing it, the implication was that a biker, whose words to a person contemplating jumping off a bridge are at least a generation out of date and should never have been OK, pushed a man dressed as a woman off the bridge. That was after the two kissed — a kiss the biker enjoyed very much.

The attempt at humor was just wrong.

Before his “joke,” Ollerich also made some of his other viewpoints known.

“Well, this tirade leads me to the fact that here in the great state of South Dakota, we are proud of our values, work ethic and morals. It make(s) me sick to see how our country is changing. We can’t sit by idly and let the kooks from the east and west coast tell us how we should farm and ranch here. We know that if a bathroom says MEN, that is where a man should do his business. I would like to see some crossdresser try and enter the ladies’ bathroom behind my granddaughter. He might walk in but … well I think I’m not alone on this one.”

Whether people agree with the sentiment — and some surely do — is one thing, though such instances don’t seem too common in South Dakota. But the implied violence is, once again, improper.

Ollerich, who raises cattle near Elkton, certainly has the right to free speech. But he writes his column in the September-October issue of the South Dakota Cattleman’s Association publication under the title of Steve Ollerich, association president. So his column, rightly or wrongly, is a reflection of the group at large. And his words had to make some cattlemen (and cattlewomen) queasy.

Early this month, Ollerich issued this apology:

“By now many of you have read my article in the SD Cattlemen magazine. I want to apologize to anyone whom I may have offended with my comments. It was my intention to use the divisiveness we are experiencing in our country to rally cattlemen together to be proactive in maintaining our market share in the beef industry. I now realize that I missed the mark and that it sounded like a political rant. Again, that was not my intention and I take full responsibility for any harm the article has caused. I also want to stress that those were my personal views and not the views of SDCA, nor does the article reflect the policies of SDCA. SDCA members have a bond as cattlemen regardless of political leanings; I shouldn’t have allowed my views to weaken that bond.”

It’s nice that Ollerich acknowledged his error. But it sounds like he’s sorry he got caught — that he’s sorry he shared his views where he did instead of with a group of others who would have laughed and nodded in agreement.

That’s not a sincere apology.

Cross-dressing and transgender are confusing topics for many, including some of the people dealing with them personally. Some of those people worry and hurt and deal with depression as they try and sort out their feelings. That’s even implied in Ollerich’s “joke” about a person contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge. And that kind of strife deserves acknowledgement.

Advocating violence, even in the form of a “joke,” is never the right play.

It doesn’t seem like Ollerich gets it. After calling for respect, he shows a lack of that very trait.

He should resign.