Fly Fishing Museum Goes Ahead With Cheney Invitation

Moments ago we spoke with Cathi Comar, the executive director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, and learned that the Museum has gone ahead with their invitation to former Vice President Dick Cheney to attend their annual fundraiser dinner in the fall. The decision was reached late last week but not made public until now. Cheney has accepted and will attend. Comar explained that the Museum board discussed the decision at length over the past several weeks and ultimately decided that since the Museum’s role was historical, their primary duty is to record and preserve artifacts of fly fishing history. When asked about Cheney’s obviously negative impact on fisheries conservation, Ms. Comar replied that the Museum chooses not to take sides on political or environmental issues. “Although we work with conservation organizations,” she said, “conservation itself is outside of our role.”
In a board-approved letter to the many fly fishers who have complained about the Museum’s decision, Comar notes that the Museum has never allowed political reputations to influence its decisions about whether to include and display the fishing equipment of the various presidents or vice presidents. “Our premier traveling exhibition, Anglers All: Humanity in Midstream, highlights the fly fishing paraphernalia of former presidents Carter, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, F. D. Roosevelt, and George H.W. Bush. Controversy attended the administrations of each of these men. We did not vet any of these contributions using a standard of political popularity nor could we serve the Museum’s overarching purpose had we done so. The Museum’s commitment to the total history of fly fishing is inclusive.”

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  • In other words, they just sold out in the worst way possible.

  • J.T.

    Marshall,
    I’m a big fan of this site, but I’m disappointed in this comment. While obviously many are not fans of the Bush administration, the fact is that the administration preserved more of the world’s oceans, and by de facto set aside more land for conservation, than any President before in history. Therefore your comment that Cheney’s “obviously negative impact on fisheries conservation” is unwarranted. Even the New York Times editorial board acknowledged this contribution. Keep up the great site, but keep it fair.

  • Seth

    I’m disappointed, very disappointed…and feel betrayed by the AMFF.

  • Marshall Cutchin

    J.T.,
    Thanks for your comment. Without offering any appraisal of the Bush administration’s environmental successes or failures, I must remark that Cheney’s personal effort to interfere with a variety of conservation efforts is well-documented. Since you mentioned the LA Times and the New York Times, those papers both repeatedly pointed to Cheney’s regular efforts to block environmental regulation and enforcement efforts. (In fact Cheney took issue with Bush’s decision to create marine conservation management areas in the Pacific: http://www.hcn.org/wotr/on-second-thought-mr.-cheney.) Cheney was also cited by The Washington Post and many other papers as having fought against the science protecting Pacific salmon and ignoring scientists and aides who predicted the “the largest fish kill the West has ever seen” in the dewatering of the Klamath River Basin (see http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cheney/chapters/leaving_no_tracks/index.html). And the list goes on. I think it is quite fair to describe his impact as negative.
    Marshall

  • I don’t know. I may agree with the the museum on this one (thinking out loud…). I mean, their goal is to record history and preserve historical items, and Cheney is certainly a part of fly fishing history, although perhaps not a positive part. It seems that a museum striking all association with/mention of unpopular politicians would be heading down a dangerous road. When you wear your historian’s hat, you typically want to remain as objective as possible. Of course, none of that means they had to invite the guy to dinner as an honored guest.
    Another note, the fellow has lots of money and lots of friends with money, which might help the museum in their fundraising efforts. That is, after all, the goal of this fundraiser dinner. I don’t have to like someone to take their money. But then that opens the whole can of how that money affects their supposed “objectivity.”
    Nathan

  • Ed

    It’s sad that they chose him to invite. It’s not the type of person most of us would like to see associated with our sport. However, their explanation for why they were not willing to reconsider rescind the invitation, whether or not it is the true reason, is a valid argument. I’ll take it for what it is.
    Besides, how many people never knew about the AMFF before this controversy? Any press is good press.

  • By inviting Cheney, do those of you who object believe the Museum is endorsing him? I may think Cheney is a snake (wait, I do think that), but I wouldn’t necessarily paint the Museum with the same brush just for having him out. They are providing him with a venue, at which he will presumably speak. Mike Wallace gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who enjoys similar levels of popularity in this country) a similar opportunity to explain himself in 2006.
    Mahmoud wasn’t exactly effective, and I doubt Dick will be either. In fact, if I were the Museum, my primary concern would be maintaining civility at this meeting — don’t you think the other anglers in attendance might have some choice words for the former Veep? Personally, I kind of look forward to the event: I foresee the possibility of a very well-deserved Monty Python fish slap.

  • When you invite someone to attend your banquet as the guest of honor, I think it’s safe to call that an endorsement.

  • Wolverine Angler

    The board made the correct decision. I am proud of a board that can place political party membership under the importance of history.
    After all – Dick Cheney loves fly fishing and will speak well for this sport.

  • i agree w/the objective historical argument. cheney is an historical figure…even n the fly fishing history of this country. it should b documented. i think the museum actually has an obligation n this regard. however…
    i also think that as fly angler – conservationists WE hav an obligation to express our disfavor w/this historical figure. here’s what i propose:
    buy the tickets. go to the event. this way the museum wins. when cheney gets up to speak, WALK OUT. this way cheney loses (thru embarassment).

  • Bama Fan

    40 Rivers,
    I’ve read the article over a few times now, and nowhere does it say Cheney is being honored by the Museum–just that he’s been invited to attend a fundraising dinner in the fall. So I think before we call it an endorsement we should wait for more details as to exactly what his role at the event will be.

  • stripfly

    Vice President Cheney is a man of integrity and I am honored to share an interest in fly fishing with him. Today we are seeing our “leaders” fumble with decisions because they have no principals grounding them. They seek power in order to rule and complete control is what they’re after. Vice President Cheney empowered individuals outside of the washington bureaucracy to make decisions because they had the first hand information necessary to move forward. He is a man of unwavering principal and that demands respect. We are free to disagree, and for that I am thankful. Kudos to the museum for having a spine, and tight lines to you Former VP Cheney.

  • It doesn’t say that in the article above, but if you’ve been following this story from the beginning, it’s perfectly clear.
    Here’s a link to where this story first broke
    http://www.flyrodreel.com/node/11575

  • GT

    Since we are criticizing Cheney (what could be easier), before continuing, I hope all your knots are well tied!
    Let’s just be glad they did not invite Henry Kissinger…under whose hand the Vietnam war was extended for 4 years.

  • not that i am drawing too close of a comparison between the two (once u get past draconian things like spying on ur own people and torture, they’re nothing alike at all), but adolf hitler was also a man of great integrity. he truly stuck to his convinctions and lived by the principles he believed n and professed. but i wouldn’t want to fish with either of them.

  • Gary Soucie

    Can anyone recall the AMFF’s according any other vice presidents or former vice presidents a place in fly fishing’s history. I can think of a lot of famous/well-known/notorious people who enjoy fly fishing the AMFF never saw fit to invite as speaker or to include in their wonderful traveling exhibit. Let’s hope Darth Vader doesn’t decide to donate some gear so he can be included in Anglers All.
    –GaryS

  • gary, that’s exactly what this is all about! cheney is donating some of his gear to amff and they r going to include it n the anglers all exhibit. that’s why he has been invited as this year’s guest of honor/keynote speaker.
    so yes…there is some implied endorsement n this whole thing.
    like i said b4, i do understand their historical argument and agree that they should accept his stuff n the interest of the objective historical record of american fly fishing. but this is a rock and a hard place scenario if there ever was 1. i can easily ignore cheney’s record on civil and human rights when it comes to fly fishing stuff n the interest of apolitical history. but his record on conservation issues that directly impact fisheries conservation and wilderness policy cannot b separated from his reputation n the angling community. and for this he deserves to b chastised by his peers.

  • Randy

    That is an example of why I don’t belong to organizations like TU.

  • DBL

    The Museum argues that Cheney is an integral part of fly fishing history — thus his angling artifacts are important. Civil war historians consider the gun that killed Lincoln to be an important artifact, but they certainly wouldn’t think of honoring Booth at a dinner!

  • Ed

    What does any of this have to do with TU, Randy? I like ken’s idea….too bad I cant afford a ticket.

  • [i]”The Museum argues that Cheney is an integral part of fly fishing history — thus his angling artifacts are important.”[/i]
    And therein lies the ludicrousness of this whole situation – can anyone who has chimed in on this in defense of the museum name ONE “integral” thing that Cheney has done for the sport of fly fishing? ONE THING. Please – I would love to hear it.
    On the other hand, I can tell you that, during his time in office, he did everything he could to gut 3 essential Acts to protecting the health and quality of our rivers – the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act. And, while we’re at it, just about every other piece of environmental protection he could get his greedy hands on.
    The museum is trying to have it both ways via an incredibly weak line of logic – on the one hand they’re saying that they “don’t get involved in politics” as an excuse and an absolution for extending this invitation. And yet, on the other hand, the very reason, THE ONLY REASON, that they are choosing to honor Cheney is because of his political background – not because of anything truly constructive that he has done for our sport or the environment we need to protect in order to continue to pursue it.
    And those of you above who have ties to the industry and are acting as apologists on behalf of the museum for fear of upsetting any of your sponsors are wearing your true colors. I hope it gets you somewhere. Not.

  • Ok, I suppose I’m one who defended the museum, but I certainly don’t have any sponsors (although I’m not opposed to the idea – sponsors, please contact me any time). Understand that I’m not saying their inviting Cheney was a great idea. There are any number of other and better folks they could have invited who wouldn’t have caused such an outcry. I’m just saying I don’t see that it’s the museum’s place to step into political arguments, and, make no mistake, that’s what this is. Cheney made decisions that hurt fish, but that wasn’t his sole purpose. He placed energy and agricultural concerns above the resources we as fly fishermen care about, but he isn’t actively engaged in destroying fly fishing as an end in itself (although it might feel that way sometimes). Some guy out there who works for an energy company or farm and fly fishes on weekends might actually side with Cheney on some of those issues, for the simple reason that he relies on those things to feed his family. From the museum’s standpoint, you have a former VP who likes to fly fish. Seems to me he fits in with the other museum exhibits. Like Zach said, his speaking there doesn’t mean the museum endorses his political views. I’m not saying I like Cheney or the things he did in office. I was angered by much of what he did in regards to the environment, and I’d rather them have invited someone else to speak. Still, I just don’t understand the anger in this case. Maybe if TU had invited him to speak, since TU is a conservation organization, I could understand the anger a little better. Take care,
    Nathan

  • Nathan – my comment wasn’t aimed at you.
    Like I said, the AMFF seems to be to be trying to have it both ways in this situation – saying they don’t get involved in politics, and then inviting someone who, were it not for his political career, very likely would not have been invited to speak at all. He’s an incredibly poor choice on a number of fronts, and it’s my feeling that the AMFF internally realizes that, but feels it now needs to stick to its guns and defend their ridiculous decision. Great – they can stick to their guns, and I’ll stick to mine, and not have anything to do with them if that’s their managerial mentality.
    I highly doubt the amount of money they’re going to make of this one speaking engagement is going to exceed the number of people they’ve just alienated in the long run…

  • john stoddard

    This was a disappointing decison.

  • Marty Laksbergs

    The Museum got this one wrong – their Political Correctness slap in the face to every organization (conversation) that has been, and are fighting to undo the mistakes of Mr. Cheney. The Museum also got it wrong when their spokesperson made this statement: “Ms. Comar replied that the Museum chooses not to take sides on political or environmental issues.” With the invitation of Mr. Cheney they did take sides.
    Also “fly fishing paraphernalia of former presidents” is not the same as an invitation to someone who worked against everything the Museum is trying to model itself after.