It’s been a crazy week at the Alaska Watchman, ever since we reported that construction crewmen, working on a bridge in Denali National Park, were told they could no longer fly the American flag from their trucks because park officials thought the flags detracted from visitors’ experience.

The story went viral, sparking outrage among hundreds of thousands of Americans who were shocked to learn that flying Old Glory would be restricted in one of the country’s premier national parks.

Others were quick to demonize the Watchman for what they claimed was false reporting, and the use of an anonymous whistleblower for our source.

Mainstream media outlets reported the National Park Service’s denial that they had anything to do with the flag controversy, which only added fuel to criticism directed at the Watchman.

In the end, the truthfulness of our original reporting was confirmed by both the Federal Highway Administration and the private contractor building the bridge.

Behind the scenes, however, we were calling and emailing federal agencies, contractors, elected officials and park personnel in an attempt to put all criticism to rest about the veracity of our initial report.

As the social media firestorm leveled every conceivable insult at the Watchman, we were forced to wait nearly a week as various organizations crafted their responses to our questions.

In the end, the truthfulness of our original reporting was confirmed by both the Federal Highway Administration and the private contractor building the bridge.

In reflecting on this entire saga, there are several things to consider.

At times, it is necessary to use anonymous whistleblowers to uncover stories that would otherwise never be reported. In this case a construction crewman reached out to let us know that he and his fellow workers were no longer allowed to fly the American flag from their trucks. We’ve known this man for many years. He’s a respected Alaskan, but he feared losing his livelihood if his name was publicly revealed. So, we agreed to keep him anonymous.

Secondly, when a powerful federal agency is called to give an account for its controversial actions, it is loathe to do so. In this case, the National Park Service simply banked on the fact that it could undermine the report entirely with a one-paragraph statement, and the story would go away.

Thirdly, it takes time to expose deception. In this case, it was about a week before various organization were willing to publicly state that, yes – the park service was fully behind the removal of American flags from the crewmen’s trucks.

These types of stories require long days, late nights and dogged determination. If you support the Watchman’s ongoing effort to shed light in Alaska, please consider supporting our work. We can’t do this without you.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

EDITORIAL: Denali Park flag story sparks outrage, villainization and redemption

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Steve Sanders says:

    I sincerely hope that Senator Sullivan gets involved and heads roll! I sure you will not hear a thing out of Murky! I have always said there is one thing that liberals hate worst than Republicans and that is the truth!!!

    • Diana Patience says:

      you are so one spot. I first read this and was so compelled to do something, I called made my point clear. then I went outside and cried as I viewed my flag flying in full sunset amazing as God is.

    • Karen Johnson says:

      rude generalization. sit down and shut up

    • Martin Palmiere USN( ret.) says:

      Steve, couldn’t agree more. Hey National
      Park Service hierarchy, you don’t like our flag, go find one in another country you bunch of ungrateful, “WOKE” idiots.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Joel/Alaska watchman, You Rock.
    See how being honest pays off

  • Duane Bannock says:

    As one that publicly questioned the facts of the Watchman’s original reporting I say “Thank you” for the follow up and clarification. But please: When I reached out to you via your website portal and email for clarification, you didn’t reply either. Well, not to me, but apparently to my coworker who I referenced.
    But lets continue: in your earlier story today you’ve published 2 quotes that are diametrically opposed to each other; someone is lying.
    1. Denali Park spokesman Peter Christian: “At no time did an NPS official seek to ban or limit the flag.”
    2. “On May 16, 2024, our client……… asked that the flag be removed,” Granite explained.
    Your reporting indicates NPS passed on a complaint to NHWA who passed on the complaint to Granite. However, your story then converts ‘complaint’ to ‘asked that the flag be removed.’ Where’s the proof that NPD/Merrell told/directed/ordered the (unnamed) FHWA official to pass that directive to Granite? I understand protecting the employee of Granite, but not the FHWA official. Here’s the missing link: Did or did not NPS or FHWA direct Granite to remove the flag? It’s a Yes/No question and your story still hasn’t answered it.
    Before you attempt to label me as a liberal commie in support of big gub’ment, please know: I’m a self described Right Wing Nut Job. My interest in this story is more curiosity of the ‘outrage’ when there’s zero shred of evidence that such a directive was ever given.

    • Tanya Metzger says:

      As a former journalist, I understand so much your questions. The first thing you need to understand is that the reason for your confusion is easily cleared up. The NPS gave different stories about this, not The Watchman. The Watchman simply reported that the NPS told several lies to try to cover up Brooke Merrell’s actions. Also, Mr. Bannock, you are asking for things with an air of expectation and entitlement. As a member of the public, it IS okay to ask your questions. It is NOT appropriate to demand and expect answers. No one is required to answer your questions. It might be better to ask the questions in a polite and professional manner. Speak in a way that makes people WANT to answer you.

      • Boots, Spurs & Beer says:

        Brooke Merrill wasn’t involved. Another NPS employee responded to a park guest’s complaint about the snapping noise the flag was making by contacting FHWA and passing on the guest’s concerns. The NPS employee didn’t communicate with anyone in NPS management (including Merrell) about the complaint or their contact with FHWA. FHWA passed the guest’s concerns on to Granite, who acknowledged their contractual obligation to avoid detracting from guest experiences within the park. Granite directed the employee not to fly the flag while driving in the park, but apparently didn’t do a great job of explaining why. Thus the employee’s complaint to Senator Sullivan and the ensuing sh*t storm.

  • Michael Volin says:

    Thank for standing ground and taking the heat again.

  • Darlene says:

    thank you for the truth..Makes me feel super

  • SHANE HOLT says:

    where are all the wisenheimers who just last week deemed the story as false and we would all see their ways.
    of course they run like rats

  • Cortney Braun says:

    Amazing journalism Joel! Thank you sincerely for diligently working on this matter and standing up for the truth!
    God bless you!

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Like I said earlier about the pride flag. That they would be putting up a flag, to fly, over Federal lands. All you haters out there, that cried it’s not true. Is this story not true either?

  • BILL FIKES says:

    The truck in the header is displaying the US Flag in clear violation of US Flag Code. “Look at me, I’m an UBER Patriot that has zero actual respect for the Flag!”

    • Dave Madden says:

      I agree 100%! flying the American flag from a vehicle is a clear violation of the flag code and is very disrespectful. Why are we allowing contractors working on federal lands to be disrespectful to the American flag?

      • Karen Johnson says:

        absolutely some think flying a flag in the bed of their truck makes them more patriotic. I bet they never served in our military nor have bothered to find out the responsibility to display our American flag with respect

    • Jeff Butler says:

      I’ve always wondered why the Right pretends to stand for freedom yet kowtows to some silly flag code. Express your patriotism any way that suits you, including displaying an upside down flag like Supreme Court Justice of the United States, Alito did.

  • Working Hand says:

    Big thank you to Joel and everyone across the state for bringing this matter to the forefront while allowing me to remain anonymous. My family and I have forfeited wages and invested countless hours promoting conservative values locally here in the interior and across the great state of Alaska. Coming out of a three year fight attempting to hold the educational system to a higher standard, I have been focused on providing for my family. The ability to continue working with minimal distractions is exactly what I needed to remain focused, productive and employed. Knowing the fight for basic freedoms while simultaneously calling attention to the ever present bureaucracy overrun by extreme leftists would continue, I was afforded the opportunity to put my family first while holding on to our values, refusing to give in to the madness. Without the help from Joel Davidson at the Alaska Watchman and Suzanne Downing at Must Read Alaska, this fight would undoubtedly never gained the traction and support it deserved. Once again thank you for taking on the fight, putting in the hours and enduring the undeserved criticism. It’s a shame it had to go this far. Unfortunately I have not received the nod to continue flying the American flag.
    As the deceitful lies perpetuated by those in authority are now laid bare, I am still left wondering, “Why am I still prohibited to fly Old Glory?”
    I suppose I’m not surprised. The oh so familiar tactic these days of lying, screaming the loudest or simply accusing others as “hateful” so as to detract from the original problem has worked for the left once again.

    • turbodigits says:

      NPS, the highway administration, and Granite all released statements on Friday, which are published on the ADN website. Here are some excerpts.

      FROM NPS:
      “After further review, it has been confirmed that a Denali National Park employee notified FHWA staff about a visitor’s complaint of a flag ‘flapping’ on Denali Park Road and asked if there was an appropriate way to request it be detached from a contractor’s vehicle to limit wildlife and visitor impacts,” Christian said in a statement. “The employee contacted the FHWA without authorization, and without the superintendent’s knowledge. Park officials have taken corrective actions to ensure future park and project communications follow proper procedures.”

      “As is always the case with construction work in our national parks, the goal is to minimize impacts and noise for both visitors and wildlife as much as possible,” Federal Highway Administration spokesperson Angela Gates said in a statement Wednesday.
      According to the statement, the park service “relayed concerns to FHWA — as it does with all feedback related to the project — regarding single occupant vehicle traffic, as well as a visitor complaint about a flag on a vehicle while the vehicle was in motion.”

      The highway administration staff “brought both concerns to the responsible contractor, who addressed the situation per their usual process,” Gates said.

      The contractor, Granite Construction, confirmed that the highway administration notified the company on May 16 “that a visitor complained” about a Granite Construction vehicle that “was creating a noise disturbance by traveling through the park with a mounted flag.”

      The highway administration “asked that the flag be removed,” according to a statement from Erin Kuhlman, Granite’s chief marketing and communications officer.

      “One of the Polychrome project’s partnership goals is to preserve the park’s natural elements and maintain park visitors’ experience by keeping a low profile as we go about our work, and we are mindful of this goal when planning our work and supporting the project,” Kuhlman said.

      “We always work to be responsive to our client’s concerns and complied,” Kuhlman added. “Our interest is in safely completing this important project while being considerate of park visitors and their desire to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.”

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        That “noise disturbance” complaint is hilarious. The excuses or charges that the evil comes up with. Better ban all those eagles, osprey, owls, hawks, ducks, pigeons, and whatever other bird whose wings make a whooshing noise as they fly because those sounds must surely be a disturbance to the sound of silence.

  • EricRSauers says:

    Friends, if you want to earn real money, this is a golden opportunity! Just one click and you can earn thousands of dollars! Click now and make your dreams come true! >>>>>>>_

  • Reggie Taylor says:

    Congratulations, Joel. Good work.