Michele Fiore sat on the floor of the Portland International Airport on Wednesday night pleading into the receiver of her plugged-in iPhone.
“I need you to stay alive. The only way we’re going to be able to write your story and write your book is if you stay alive,” Fiore said in a serene tone as she negotiated with the four remaining occupiers of an Oregon wildlife reserve urging calm as FBI agents stormed the building. “There’s been one martyr too many.”
The Nevada assemblywoman, a kind of colorful political figure who breathes easy in a Trumpian era, flew out to Oregon specifically to help broker a peaceful resolution to the month-long occupation which has pit members of the notorious Bundy family against the federal government.
It is no surprise that the libertarian, gun-toting lawmaker showed up at the doorstep of this fight. She crafted a national image for herself in interviews during the original Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014, referring to the Bureau of Land Management staffers as “Nazi-minded” bullies, an off-the-cuff remark that is indicative of her self-proclaimed political incorrectness. Fiore is a kind of perfectly crafted Republican fever dream, a politically nuanced figure with blond, Real Housewives highlights and a persona that would fit in just as well on a reality television show or on the bully pulpit of a Trump-like nationally televised rally.
Her mother, Lill Fiore, is a lesbian who raised her in Brooklyn in the late 1970s, a traditional breeding ground for bleeding-heart liberals. She learned how to fire guns from her two uncles who were New York City police officers before she moved to Las Vegas with her mom as the 1980s drew to a close.
Fiore inherited the politics bug from an unlikely source: businessman Steve Wynn, who first encouraged her to run for Congress in 2010 when the Tea Party began to blossom. She was undeterred in defeat, quickly setting her eye on an open Nevada Assembly seat in 2012. Even in the beginning of her tenure, Fiore brashly defied political convention, becoming the only Republican in the Assembly to vote for lifting the state’s gay marriage ban and legalizing medical marijuana.
“I didn’t get the memo that says you’re supposed to sit down, shut up and behave,” Fiore told the Las Vegas Sun at the time.
Probably unsurprisingly, Fiore has filed paperwork to run for Congress again this year.
Fiore even fancies herself as a movie star, writing and starring in the 2006 film Siren, which is about a middle-aged woman who aspires to be a rock star. “She seems like your ordinary overweight middle-aged wife & mom except her dream of being a rock star still weighs heavy on her soul, “they” say she can’t do it, watch her transform and over come life’s brutal obstacles to turn her dream into reality,” the IMDB description reads.
She has also occupied a great deal of her political career with encouraging every living human on the planet to own and tote a gun.
In 2015, when 10 states were pushing for legislation that would permit students on college campuses to carry guns, Fiore invented an interesting spin to legitimize the issue.
“If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” the assemblywoman said in an interview with The New York Times at the time. “The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”
That line could have been ripped from the playbook of the Trump-Palin “live free or die” doctrine, a kind of devil-may-care attitude that has captivated Republicans over the past few years. Fiore is politically savvy enough that even when the issues she supports go nowhere—this bill didn’t even make it out of the Legislature—her rhetoric leaves an indelible mark that is meant to shock and awe political observers.
Take for example Fiore’s far-fetched notion that cancer is a fungus that can be cured by saltwater, a kind of pseudoscience head-scratcher that makes climate change denial look like reasoned rocket science.
“If you have cancer, which I believe is a fungus, and we can put a pic line into your body and we’re flushing with, say, salt water, sodium carbonate, through that line and flushing out the fungus,” Fiore said on her radio show Walk the Talk in early 2015. “These are some procedures that are not FDA-approved in America that are very inexpensive, cost-effective.”
Perhaps this is why Fiore, who wasn’t available for an interview today according to her assistant, is a perfect fit to negotiate with grown men locked inside a wildlife preserve being coerced to exit with the promise of pizza.
She can speak their language. And despite being viewed as somewhat of a loose-lipped firebrand, whose biggest claim to fame might be a 2016 Second Amendment calendar, Fiore managed to keep things somewhat calm as the last occupiers left the building.
This seems like only the beginning of Fiore’s emergence into the spotlight. She is on Ted Cruz’s Nevada Leadership Team and campaign surrogates say she’ll aid his campaign efforts in the state ahead of the Republican caucus on Feb. 27. Cruz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment as to what exact role she would be play in his bid for the presidency.
Her aspirations and provocations are symbolic of the kind of larger-than-life Republican Party at the moment and could propel her to national prominence as a Tea Party firebrand. Fiore drew the ire of mainstream media recently when, in the span of a month, she proposed traveling to Paris to shoot Syrian refugees in the head and posed for a family Christmas card in which every single person, infants excluded, was armed with a gun.
“It’s up to Americans to protect America. We’re just your ordinary American family. —With love & liberty, Michele,” the card read, a love letter to Trump’s “bomb the shit out of ISIS” America.