Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson says Lynne Cheney told him to “shut up” during a reception Saturday night in Cody, about a week after another spat between two of Wyoming’s most prominent political figures.
“She just said, ‘Shut up,’” Simpson said during an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune on Tuesday. “You can just read into it what you want to. I don’t know what she meant. She was very intense.”
Lynne Cheney is the wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney and mother of Liz Cheney, a 2014 Republican primary challenger to incumbent U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi.
Liz Cheney staffer Kara Ahern emailed a statement Tuesday night from Lynne Cheney, saying her exchange with Simpson harkened back to a previous interaction with him at a fundraiser in Laramie.
“The conversation was not about Mike Enzi,” the statement said.
Simpson’s daughter-in-law, Deb Oakley Simpson, posted a comment on her Facebook page the night of the Cody reception about the exchange. “I believe the direct quote was ‘shut your mouth’ regarding his support of Mike Enzi,” she wrote. Deb Simpson later told the Star-Tribune she was describing the comment second-hand.
But Ahern disputed the Facebook account. Ahern said Deb Simpson wasn’t present during the conversation. Ahern released a statement on Monday attributed to Lynne Cheney that said Lynne loved Alan Simpson and his wife.
“We have been friends for over 40 years,” the statement said. “As to the story posted on Facebook, I have to admit I am at a bit of a loss. That simply did not happen.”
Simpson said the conversation was animated and people were looking at them. “It disintegrated for the both of us,” he said.
The reception took place before a fundraiser for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Alan Simpson and Dick Cheney are trustees at the center. The Saturday gala was billed as a premier event for the Rocky Mountain region and even featured Prince Albert II of Monaco as the guest of honor.
Simpson said the disagreement with Lynne Cheney began a couple weeks ago, at a fundraising event in Laramie for the University of Wyoming Art Museum, which was hosted by FMC Corp. The event also honored one of Liz Cheney’s campaign staffers for her work with charity.
Simpson said the Cheneys overheard his wife say during the event that the couple was backing Enzi. At the same event, Liz Cheney’s daughter presented a football to dignitaries and asked them to sign it. Simpson said he declined.
“I have signed footballs which have then been used for some other purpose, a charity or campaign or something,” he said.
Simpson said he asked Liz Cheney’s daughter if the football was going to be used for campaign purposes and she said she didn’t know.
“And that’s when Lynne and [Liz’s staffer] said, ‘Do you think we would use it for a political fundraiser?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. That has happened several times in my life.’ And that obviously set off something,” Simpson said.
Lynne Cheney, in the statement released Tuesday night, said that Simpson’s behavior in Laramie prompted the discussion on Saturday in Cody.
“It was about Al’s blowup at the FMC event in Laramie, when my 15-year-old granddaughter asked him to sign a football to be used to raise money for cancer patients in Rock Springs,” the statement said. “Al was rude to my granddaughter and I told him he was out of line. The topic was not Mike Enzi.”
On Tuesday, Simpson said that his support for Enzi dates to when the future senator was president of the Wyoming Jaycees. Simpson said he talked to Enzi about running for public office. Enzi was mayor of Gillette, served in the Wyoming House and Senate and then ran for and won Simpson’s seat in the U.S. Senate when Simpson decided to step down.
Simpson said he didn’t know if he would do any stumping for Enzi on the campaign trail. “It’s a deep-, deep-, deep-rooted friendship,” he said. “I didn’t have that friendship with Liz.”
But Simpson said he’s been a good friend to Dick Cheney for 45 years and still considers him a friend. “I’m not out to hurt anyone,” he said. “That’s not who I am. But I am a guy who states his case. And when I was asked about this, I said I am sad and I remain sad.”