Tim Ballard accusations ‘incredibly disturbing’ if true, Cox says

Sep 21, 2023, 5:03 PM | Updated: 6:28 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox called sexual misconduct allegations against a prominent anti-child sex trafficking activist and rumored potential Senate candidate “incredibly disturbing” if true.

Tim Ballard, the founder and ex-CEO of Operation Underground Railroad and the subject of the recent hit film “Sound of Freedom,” left the organization earlier this year following an investigation into multiple claims of sexual misconduct involving seven women, Vice News reported Monday.

Cox was asked about the allegations during his monthly news conference with PBS Utah on Thursday, and while he noted that the accusations haven’t been proven, he said Tim Ballard’s ouster from the organization raises questions.

“I know he was terminated from OUR, which I thought was very interesting: that the organization that he created, that he was the face of … that they would terminate him and remove themselves from him,” Cox said. “And so I wondered like everybody else what was happening. There had to be something out there.”

The governor said that he doesn’t know Ballard aside from having met him once in passing in an airport.

According to Vice, Ballard “invited women to act as his ‘wife’ on undercover overseas missions ostensibly aimed at rescuing victims of sex trafficking. He would then allegedly coerce those women into sharing a bed or showering together, claiming that it was necessary to fool traffickers,” according to the report.

Ballard roundly denied the accusations in a statement released Tuesday through the SPEAR Fund, a separate anti-trafficking organization for which he has served as a senior adviser since leaving Operation Underground Railroad.

He said the “latest tabloid-driven sexual allegations are false” and “baseless inventions” that are meant to destroy his credibility.

Operation Underground Railroad told KSL.com in a statement Tuesday that the group “retained an independent law firm to conduct a comprehensive investigation of all relevant allegations” but said “to preserve the integrity of its investigation and to protect the privacy of all persons involved, OUR will not make any further public comment at this time.”

The sexual misconduct allegations were published just days after Vice and other media outlets published a statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints denouncing Ballard for “the unauthorized use of President (M. Russell) Ballard’s name for Tim Ballard’s personal advantage.”

Tim Ballard — who is not related to President Ballard of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles though the two share the same last name — said he remains a “faithful member in good standing” with the faith and questioned the legitimacy of the statement from the church. Multiple local media outlets, including KSL.com, have independently verified the authenticity of the church statement.

Cox said that he also reached out to the church for confirmation, and was told that “it had been vetted through all the normal church processes” and was not the result of a “rogue spokesperson.”

While Cox believes in a “system where people are innocent until proven guilty, the allegations, though, of several different women are incredibly disturbing and just awful and, if true, just unconscionable,” the governor said. “What do I make of it? It’s very disturbing, and I hope they’re not true … but it would seem like we have multiple organizations that are speaking out and that’s deeply troubling.”

Cox was asked if he is concerned by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes’ close relationship with Tim Ballard and deferred the question to Reyes’ office. Reyes has accompanied Tim Ballard on international rescue missions and appeared on Ballard’s podcast this summer to discuss “Sound of Freedom.”

Reyes teased that a “dear friend” of his — widely believed to be Tim Ballard — would soon announce a campaign to run for Mitt Romney’s Senate seat, after the senator said he would not seek reelection in 2024. Ballard told Sean Spicer that he was considering running.

The governor thanked Reyes for his commitment to stopping human trafficking, saying that he hopes the allegations against Ballard wouldn’t hurt that cause.

A spokesman for Reyes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

The Salt Lake Chinese Choir brings people together from Provo to Ogden, but their influence reaches...

Erin Cox

First Chinese choir in Utah uses music to break cultural barriers

The Salt Lake Chinese Choir brings people together from Provo to Ogden, but their influence reaches farther than that. 

8 hours ago

Skiers on the lift at Snowbird on Sunday before it closed for the day. (KSL TV)...

Brianna Chavez

Avalanche risk high in northern Utah, winter storm delays some ski resorts

A weekend winter storm that brought heavy snow to the mountains along the Wasatch Front also led to high avalanche risk warnings across northern Utah.

8 hours ago

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its annual First Presidency Christmas Devotion...

Emily Ashcraft

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urge remembrance of Christ this Christmas season

President Russell M. Nelson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited members to come and "adore" Christ at the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday.

10 hours ago

A Clearfield City police truck is in the snow...

Mark Jones

Power pole fire in Clearfield leave many in the dark

The North Davis Fire District says a transformer blew on on the main lines in Clearfield on Sunday causing a pole fire. 

11 hours ago

Power crews fixing power lines. Rocky Mountain Power reported more than 6,000 customers in Salt Lak...

Mark Jones

Thousands went without power in Salt Lake and Davis counties on Sunday

Rocky Mountain Power reports there are more than 6,200 customers without power Sunday evening.

12 hours ago

FILE — Nephi police spent Sunday investigating an unattended death.  (KSL TV)...

Mark Jones

Nephi police investigating unattended death

The Nephi Police Department spent Sunday investigating an unattended death.

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Users display warnings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI), access to malicious software ...

Les Olson

How to Stay Safe from Cybersecurity Threats

Read our tips for reading for how to respond to rising cybersecurity threats in 2023 and beyond to keep yourself and your company safe.

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

Tim Ballard accusations ‘incredibly disturbing’ if true, Cox says