"I'm going in with 20 strong men. I'm going to speak in front of the school board, and I'm giving them an option they can leave, or they can be removed. And then after that we are going to replace them with nine parents and we are going to vote down the mask mandates that evening, that evening."
These were the words Steven Lynch shouted during a rally in Harrisburg Sunday. After receiving social media criticism, Steve Lynch put out a YouTube video the next day claiming he did not intend to incite violence or physical intimidation.
But the Republican candidate for Northampton County executive says he stands by his speech made at a rally in Harrisburg Sunday where he said he was going to school boards to remove members.
"Why would you say 20 strongmen? Isn't that intimidation?" I asked him in our 69 News studio, where Lynch agreed to have a sit-down interview.
"No, that's neutralizing intimidation from the school board," he responded.
Lynch said he was contacted by parents in the Northampton Area School District about mask mandates the district had imposed. He says they were bullied by the district and were not taken seriously with data they had researched. Lynch said he was speaking up for them. During his Harrisburg speech he says he was referring to other states where board members were voted out by recall, and his post-rally video was to clarify that point.
"People thought I would go in and physically remove people, that would never be the case, that's not what I stand for," he said.
In Pennsylvania, to remove a school board member, a petition has to be presented in writing to a circuit court judge and it could take three weeks to get an answer.
But during his nearly 13-minute speech, when he talks about removing members, Lynch specifically says a new board made up of parents would replace the old and vote down mask mandates that same evening.
"How is that not threatening violence?"
"The presence was going to be men just sitting there, to have a presence, that people weren't talking back," he said.
"So the rhetoric you are saying right now you believe is responsible and will not cause any violence?" I asked.
"If it causes violence it's the person who does, they are responsible," he said.
After the interview Lynch did say he will try to add more context to his speeches in the future.