Starting Line’s Most ‘WTF’ Stories Of 2022

Rick Shaddock of Fairfield using a spinning rainbow wheel to prove he is a person of color during a Jan. 24 Fairfield City Council meeting.

By Ty Rushing

December 9, 2022

As 2022 comes to a close, there were more than a few stories the Starting Line team covered that collectively made us and readers go “WTF.”

A lot of those stories revolved around attacks on public education, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups. Some of them involved public officials being bad at their jobs or avoiding water for months on end.

Although we have a lot of “WTF” stories to choose from, we tried our best to limit ourselves. So let’s take it one month at a time.

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A non-binding diversity statement in Fairfield became a hot-button issue in one of Iowa’s most unique and eccentric communities. The homophobia tied to the issue would be a reoccurring theme throughout the year in Iowa. Similar anti-LGBTQ talking points were used on the campaign trail by some Republican candidates and were present everywhere from school board meetings to the state house. Fairfield would approve the statement at its next city council meeting, but not without some dramatic moments, including the one used in the lead art for this story.

Fairfield Official Compares Diversity Statement to Sex Trafficking, Pedophilia

Fairfield Approves Diversity Statement as Community Pushes Back on Councilmember’s Comments

Speaking of the state house, it’s hard to limit it to just one January Iowa Legislature story, but Jake Chapman saying teachers have a “sinister agenda” set the tone for a number of the GOP-sponsored education reform bills that were introduced during the session. Additionally, Chapman’s remarks would later cost him dearly.

Chapman Makes Clear: Teachers his Target in new Legislative Session

The headline says it all for this one. Fortunately, the Oskaloosa School District moved forward in allowing children to learn about American Civil Rights heroes. One of the people who didn’t want this to happen directly blamed Starting Line’s reporting for derailing their cause.

Oskaloosa Parent Group Seeks to Limit Teaching About MLK, Ruby Bridges

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It was quite a start to the new year for Iowa. The Hawkeye State made national news—and first reported by Starting Line—for a proposal to place cameras with a live feed in every public school classroom, but the bill died before a single hearing on it.

GOP Bill Would Install Classroom Cameras for Live Monitoring of Public Schools

Remember the Canadian trucker protests? I’m sure these Iowans do…

Iowans Donated $19,000 to Canadian Trucker Protest

Iowa’s bill to ban trans girls from competing in school-sanctioned sports was signed in March, but the Iowa House and Senate floor debates took place in February and included this transphobic speech by Rep. Jeff Shipley of Fairfield.

Rep. Jeff Shipley Says Trans Iowans Have Mental Illness, Compares Them to Cancer


Gov. Kim Reynolds didn’t issue any public statements in the days following the shooting outside of East High School in Des Moines and near the Capitol that claimed a teenage boy’s life and saw two teenage girls severely injured. However, when she did speak about it, Reyolds blamed it on schools.

Gov. Reynolds Criticized For Blaming Shooting On Iowa Schools


These two stories are examples of why it’s good to have a close eye on local governments in addition to state and federal offices. The city of Armstrong was mired in controversies that included everything from financial theft to a police officer using a TAZER on a civilian at a party for money.

Meanwhile, we also took a closer look at the secretive way the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors used federal COVID-relief dollars to purchase a ski hill. It included this quote “You don’t lie to your wife but you also don’t volunteer information that you don’t need to,” from Supervisor Justin Schultz, who would later narrowly lose his primary race in June.

What’s Going On In Armstrong, Iowa?

Questions Surround Pott. County’s Use Of Rescue Plan Funds For Ski Hill

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Gov. Kim Reynolds declared that she wants “her own AG (attorney general)” and a state auditor who won’t sue her despite the fact that State Auditor Rob Sand has never sued her. This was stunning at the time since all three offices are elected independently by Iowa voters and help provide checks and balances for the state’s executive branch, but Reynolds got her wish with one of the offices.

Reynolds: “I Want My Own AG,” A State Auditor Who Won’t Sue Her

Speaking of the governor, also in May she and Rep. Ashley Hinson held a private meeting about the Linn-Mar School District that excluded some parents and even members of the district’s school board. The impetus for the meeting was to push Reynolds’ school voucher plan and rail against a board policy, which was based on a state law, that supported trans students.

Linn-Mar Board Members: “We Should Have Been Informed” Of Governor’s Meeting

Another “WTF” school moment took place in Waukee when a student delivered a report disparaging Mexicans who come to the US and even included a slide titled “Why Illegals Should go home.”

Waukee Parents Express Outrage Over Racist Presentation By Students


It was leaked weeks before, but the US Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v Wade the landmark ruling that secured women’s right to an abortion.

Where Iowa Stands Now After US Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision


Let’s see, a sitting school board member (and quiet election denier) told people he didn’t trust public schools, a southwest Iowa lake contains brain-eating amebas, and an Iowa neo-Nazi group made its debut…

House Candidate Gehlbach Says He Doesn’t ‘Trust’ Public Schools, Claims LGBTQ ‘Brainwashing’

Brain-Eating Ameba Fears Close Southwest Iowa Lake, Missourian Infected

Neo-Nazi Flyers Touting ‘Great Replacement’ Theory Posted In Iowa Town

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An old-fashioned newspaper war broke out in Lake City, Iowa, Republicans partied at the Field of Dreams movie site AND found time to deny diabetics affordable insulin. Oh, and the Spirit Lake School District introduced a proposal to arm staff members, which originally omitted teachers but it was later discovered that some teachers are included in this.

The Complex (And Petty?) Reason This Small Iowa City Now Has Two Newspapers

Iowa GOP Parties At Field Of Dreams After Voting Against, Opposing Funds For Its Expansion

Ashley Hinson Voted Against Lowering Insulin Prices… Because Of The Green New Deal?

“I’m For $35 [Insulin] Caps” Grassley Tells Iowans After Voting Against Them

Democratic Leaders React To Iowa School District’s Plan To Arm Staff


Well, an Iowa Neo Nazi drove around Des Moines in “The Hate Bus,” and got mad when then-Senate Candidate Mike Franken called him repugnant. The city of Zearing failed to file its budget on time and will lose out on nearly $200,000 in property tax revenue and the city clerk blamed it on Juneteenth. Oh, and Ingredion officials brought armed guards to a negotiation with striking Cedar Rapids workers.

A Nazi Drove Around Des Moines On 9/11 In Swastika-Decorated U-Haul Truck

Iowa Nazis Upset That Mike Franken Called Them ‘Repugnant’

Zearing, Iowa, Failed To Submit Budget, Residents Will Pay No Property Taxes

Workers Upset After Ingredion Brought 6 Armed Guards To Negotiation

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The Iowa Mama Bears, who advised Gov. Kim Reynolds on school masking policies, had a dramatic falling out that included one Mama Bear filing for a protective order against the other. A woman from Southwest Iowa claimed her father was a prolific serial killer and the Iowa Senate Majority Leader was accused of not living in the actual district he wants to represent.

Reynolds’ Activist Advisors On Schools Have Dramatic Falling Out

Read The Ankeny ‘Mama Bears’ Criminal Complaint Details

Was This Southwest Iowa Town Home To A Serial Killer?

Documents Put Into Serious Doubt Where Jack Whitver Lives


Obviously, the election was the big thing and in Iowa, went the way many pundits predicted it would. Still, there were a few “WTF” moments including vote-counting hiccups in Linn and Scott counties and a strong showing for election-denier candidates. Additionally, House Speaker Pat Grassley announced the creation of an education reform committee, which will more than likely be where Gov. Kim Reynolds voucher bill is ushered through.

What Happened With Linn County’s Reporting Delay

How Iowa’s Election Denier Candidates Fared In Last Week’s Election

Iowa Republicans Add New ‘Education Reform’ Committee In House


To be continued…


by Ty Rushing

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To contact Senior Editor Ty Rushing for tips or story ideas, email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @Rushthewriter 

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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