Three Montana state senators on the Education and Cultural Resources Committee in Helena have commented on the upcoming hearing to confirm or reject Pat Williams as a member of the Montana Board of Regents on March 20.

Republican Dave Lewis said Thursday that he wants to talk with Williams about comments he made to the New York Times in which he referred to University of Montana football players as 'thugs', before he makes up his mind on a vote to confirm or reject. Lewis said Williams is a friend he's known for many years, both as an educator and as a member of the Montana congressional delegation. He said he does not understand how a man with Williams' political experience could make such comments, especially immediately prior to the Jordan Johnson rape trial in Missoula.

State Senator Dave Lewis

Democratic State Senator Jonathan Windy Boy was unequivocal in his support for Williams. In fact, Windy Boy said if the New York Times had asked him about the University of Montana football team, he would probably have said the same words Williams did. When asked if he would have any questions for Mr. Williams during the upcoming hearing on March 20, Windy Boy said "no, because he already has my vote even before the hearing starts"

State Senator Johnathan Windy Boy

Democratic State Senator Tom Facey of Missoula is actually carrying the bill to confirm the three individuals who are up for confirmation on the Board of Regents, including Pat Williams. Facey is also a staunch Williams supporter, citing Williams' strong support for higher education over the years, and also in is time as regent. Regarding the furor over his comments to the New York Times and subsequent media interviews, Facey says they are a "non-factor" in his decision.

Facey also pointed out that "as a former member of the Grizzly football team, I was not offended by his comments, and I think Pat should be confirmed".

Facey explained the confirmation process. He said the three individuals can be voted on as a group, or a member of the committee may request that they be voted on separately, and that a vote to "confirm" or "not to confirm" may be received. Facey said if Williams receives a "not to confirm" vote from the Senate Education committee, he would urge the full Senate to ignore the recommendation and confirm Williams despite the committee's vote.

State Senator Tom Facey

Following Williams' statement to the New York Times, he explained the context of the comments during an interview on KGVO Radio in Missoula.

Two groups have issued petitions regarding Williams' appointment to the Board of Regents, one to reject, and one formed days later to confirm.

The State Senators on the committee have received hundreds of calls and emails from both sides of the issue.  There are 10 senators on the Education and Cultural Resources Committee, 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats.