The tweet that put a Scottsdale sports announcer on a collision course with his state Senator, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, wasn't an unusual one for him.
"You prove that you are a complete waste of human flesh with no redeeming valuea [sic] ever time you tweet. Resign you dumb nazi whore," Josh Miller posted from an anonymous Twitter account on January 30.
Miller — who has narrated San Francisco Giants spring training games over the public address system since 2003 and whose resume also includes work with Grand Canyon University, the Arizona Fall League, and Scottsdale's Desert Mountain High School — had been making posts like these since at least November. He regularly quote-tweeted Ugenti-Rita from an anonymous account called ZonaJosh, mixing political rhetoric with misogynistic attacks, calling her a "whore," a "bitch," and a "twat."
Ugenti-Rita, a Republican representing District 23, has taken a variety of controversial political positions. Among other things, she's been a critic of the governor's state of emergency to address the COVID-19 pandemic and has pushed to remove people from early-voting lists if they missed elections. She's become accustomed to a certain amount of misogynistic vitriol directed her way online.
But the January 30 tweet caught the legislator's attention.
"That really caught me off guard with the vulgarity of the language he was using and the graphic nature of it,” Ugenti-Rita told Phoenix New Times.
Figuring out who was behind the account didn't require a detective. After Ugenti-Rita responded to the January 30 tweet, calling ZonaJosh an anonymous "#GutlessCoward," someone in the community messaged her with their suspicions about his identity. She did a bit of sleuthing and discovered that Miller included his real first name in the attack account's ZonaJosh moniker and posted identical images and captions to both his personal Instagram and the supposedly anonymous troll account.
“That can’t be. He wouldn’t be that dumb,” Ugenti-Rita said she remembers thinking as she pored through his social media accounts on a Saturday morning.
She made a post tagging Miller and asked if the ZonaJosh account was him.
Miller responded and initially denied the accusation. When Ugenti-Rita replied with screenshots showing the identical images, he denied it again but deleted the troll account.
The next day, Miller posted a Notes-app-style apology on Twitter entitled "I Messed Up," in which he admitted to running the account. Reached by New Times on Thursday, Miller said he made a mistake and used strong language that he shouldn't have.
“This is strictly about her policies, which I thought put a risk to my family and the community,” he said. Miller said that as a parent, he was frustrated by Ugenti-Rita's support of resuming in-person instruction in schools.
Ugenti-Rita isn't buying the apology.
“This person has much deeper problems than school closures… this a disturbed individual who used an anonymous account to sexually harass me and others and now is pissed he got called out," she said. "This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with his behavior.”
The episode with Miller also contained echoes of a previous scandal involving Ugenti-Rita and sexist comments. In 2017, she spoke out about “unwanted sexual advances and lewd and suggestive comments" she'd received at the Legislature and was the first to accuse former Representative Don Shooter of misconduct. Shooter was eventually expelled from the Legislature, and in the aftermath, Ugenti-Rita was accused of sexual harassment herself.
In one tweet, Miller referenced that scandal, particularly the allegation that Ugenti-Rita's partner had sent explicit photos of her to a lobbyist. An investigation found that the photos were sent without her consent or knowledge, and some legislators called for a "revenge porn" investigation.
Miller was less sympathetic.
"Go send more pics of your rotten pussy to your staffers," he wrote.
Miller denied that his comments as a whole were misogynistic, saying he's a parent, a husband, and the son of a mother.
“I called her names. I would not call them misogynistic," he said, adding that he'd also directed different insults toward men and that, "I don’t consider myself a misogynistic person."
Asked if he'd run that argument by any women in his life, namely that he hadn't been misogynistic because he'd also targeted men, Miller said this was first time it had come up.
The online drama has since spilled over into the real world. Since Ugenti-Rita posted about him on Facebook and Twitter, Miller said that he'd received messages from her supporters and that some of them had contacted his employers. His website lists upcoming events with the Scottsdale Unified School District and the San Francisco Giants.
“Things are pending so I can’t get into it," Miller said, regarding the status of those gigs.
Ugenti-Rita and her supporters on Facebook have also glommed on to a post in which Miller encouraged security at the U.S. Capitol to shoot and kill rioters in January.
"I am working with [the Scottsdale school district]. We will see what happens. He also made some posts encouraging violence. Based on his behavior, I believe he’s a danger. I’m very concerned about his interactions with our children," Ugenti-Rita wrote on Facebook alongside a screenshot of the post. She encouraged another supporter to reach out to Miller and "let him know how you feel about his behavior," posting a list of his upcoming announcing gigs from his website.
When New Times pointed out the context of Miller's remarks — that the tweet was in reference to the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a violent mob — Ugenti-Rita said that he was still inciting violence.
“Any time you advocate for violence, it’s alarming,” she said.
Some of Ugenti-Rita's fans seem taken with the idea of "canceling" someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
"I'm not into cancel culture, and I know you're not either, but I *am* into exposing hypocrisy. And for that reason alone, cancelling him is the only way to get through to his kind," wrote one commenter. "But that would require integrity from those on the cancelling side, which is an oxymoron, so I won't hold my breath."
Scottsdale Unified School District spokesperson Nancy Norman said that the matter is being investigated but she could not say anything else at this point.
A spokesperson for the Giants reached New Times after publication of this article on Friday to say that Miller no longer works for the team, adding that he and the team parted ways after Ugenti-Rita's posts about him.
Ugenti-Rita said that it's easy to try and ignore online harassment, but you have to stand up to bullies to get them to stop. She hopes this will be an example to other women: If she hadn't said anything, Miller would still be smearing her online.
“But he attacked the wrong girl,” she said.
Miller called the posts a poor choice and said he was just blowing off steam. He thinks he deserves a second chance.
“It was a role I was playing," he said. "It was just a troll account…. I don’t believe it defines me.”
UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, Miller tweeted an apologetic message, saying he was remorseful, heartbroken to "resign" his Giants position, and that he was deactivating his Twitter account in the next 48 hours:
(This story was updated a few hours after publication to include comment from the Giants and the Twitter apology from Miller.)
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