Micciche constituent drops lawsuit over Twitter dispute

The constituent sued Micciche after he blocked her on Twitter.

A constituent of Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, is dropping a lawsuit she filed against the lawmaker for blocking her on his Twitter account.

Bethany Wortham, the plaintiff in the case, told the Clarion last Wednesday that she was glad the two were ultimately able to resolve the issue without the need for legal counsel, after Micciche met with her and apologized.

“I appreciated him being able to listen to what I had to say and meet with me,” Wortham said.

According to the original complaint in the third judicial district at Anchorage, Wortham sued Micciche after he blocked her on Twitter for posting “critiques of his … response to the COVID-19 pandemic” and because he “inhibited her participation in and access to a public forum.”

Wortham said Wednesday that she wanted to make sure she was heard for both her sake and the sake of her children. She said she hasn’t attended many in-person meetings as a constituent because of COVID concerns, and that she has used Twitter as a digital space to engage with policymakers.

On Oct. 23, Wortham — under the handle @petuniawings — tweeted a screenshot of a notification that the lawmaker had blocked her account.

“I’m his constituent,” Wortham wrote in her tweet. “I guess I will just start emailing or calling him. Womp….. womp…..”

Multiple requests for comment were not returned by Micciche, but last Wednesday he tweeted an apology to Wortham.

“Many thanks to Ms. Wortham for meeting with me for an understanding of her objectives for online access to elected officials,” Micciche wrote. “I apologized to her for being blocked on my Twitter account.”

He included a link to a PDF statement in his tweet that said after the lawsuit was filed he called the Senate communications staff and directed that Wortham be unblocked from his account.

“Although I may not know exactly how it occurred, I take full responsibility for Ms. Wortham being inadvertently blocked and I apologize for that occurrence,” Micciche wrote in his statement. “I believe in open communication with my constituents and hope to serve as an example for others that may feel that silencing disagreement is acceptable.”

The senator said in the statement he can “guarantee” that no one will be blocked from his social media accounts if they “engage respectfully.” He said he is, however, at liberty to block followers if they post any uncivil, obscene or inappropriate comments, as well as personal attacks, unsubstantiated criminal accusations, fake pages or solicitations.

Micciche also said he hopes other elected officials who “regularly delete comments and block constituents simply over a difference of opinion” also take heed of this policy.

“I actively support and will defend the First Amendment right to free speech and civil discussion,” he wrote. “Agreeing with me, my opinions or my decisions has never been a requirement for my constituents to engage. Whether the public forum is at a town hall or virtual, I will always defend my constituent’s rights to comment, and respectfully disagree with me freely.”

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.