01/06/2014 05:41 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Did Sheriff Richard Mack Really Call For An Uprising Against Gay Marriage In Utah?


A former sheriff who made headlines -- and received death threats -- over the weekend for supposedly calling for an uprising against same-sex marriage in Utah is denying he did any such thing.

"I never called for an uprising, no one was talking about that at all," former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack told The Huffington Post by phone Monday. "Our entire message has been one of peaceful change."

Mack is a state's rights and pro-gun advocate best known for successfully suing the federal government with a complaint that argued the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act violated the Constitution.

He was giving a speech Saturday in Highland, Utah, at an event he organized with Sam Bushman and Curt Crosby, the co-hosts of the conservative radio show "Liberty Roundtable," and decided to address the recent decision by a federal judge in Salt Lake City to strike down the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

“The people of Utah have rights, too, not just the homosexuals. The homosexuals are shoving their agenda down our throats,” Mack told the crowd on Saturday, according to a report from Fox 13 in Salt Lake City. “The way you take back freedom in America is one county at a time. The sheriffs need to defend the county clerks in saying, ‘No, we’re not going to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals.'"

Mack acknowledged making the remarks, but said he talked for over an hour on Saturday and devoted only "2 minutes" to the topic of same-sex marriage. He claimed that none of the three speakers at the event advocated for or even used the word "uprising."

He added that same-sex marriage is not a central focus for him and said he has no plans to pursue an anti-gay-marriage campaign. "This is not my issue, this is not what we get into," he said.

"I don't believe that the government should be involved in the marriage business at all," he added. "If the homosexual community wants to go and get rid of permits to get married for everyone, I'll march with them."

According to a Huffington Post review of news coverage of the event, Fox 13 was the first outlet to report the Highland meeting as "a call for an uprising." That report was later picked up by Buzzfeed, Talking Points Memo and others.

In a flyer on his website, Mack had described the event as a meeting to discuss gun control, Obamacare and state sovereignty, among other issues. Same-sex marriage was not mentioned.

However, Cherilyn Eagar, a conservative Utah activist, sent out an email last week to promote the event that declared, "We are building a Utah grassroots uprising."

Reached for comment Monday, Eagar said the word "uprising" did not come up at the talk on Saturday, and that the media reaction to the event had been overblown and false. But she said she didn't regret the use of the word in her promotional email.

"We're organizing and rallying citizens to become involved," she said, adding that she did not mean to encourage a violent revolution. "I think it got the response that we needed. I think people can interpret words however they wish."

Mack, for his part, said he was not aware of the promotional email and said it shouldn't have been attributed to him.