The Other Ortega is Off the Hook: Should He Be?

Many local folks are aware that there are two prominent Ortegas in the city of Scottsdale: not just the mayor (and former architect) Dave Ortega, but also art gallery owner Gilbert Ortega Jr.. It is hard to miss if you’ve spent any time in the shops in Old Town, as the name of the latter (technically, his late father Gilbert Ortega) is on a gigantic sign beckoning to shoppers. It’s a good way to build a brand, except when your name is attached to actions which truly harm the brand.

That was precisely the case when Gilbert Ortega earned headlines a year ago for all the wrong reasons: for a bizarre, likely alcohol-fueled tirade mocking Native Americans during the Super Bowl festivities in Old Town. While not related to the mayor, there was concern that perhaps the bad press might bleed over and impact the Good Ortega.

We have some new closure in this case, almost perfectly just in time for this year’s Super Bowl: Gilbert Ortega will not be charged with any crime. According to the City Attorney’s office, there was a low probability of conviction for any crime.

So what are we to think about this? First, regardless of how we view the lack of charges, hopefully we can all agree that his actions were unacceptable; many adjectives can be used to describe them, ranging from racist to immature to stupid. Considering the massive amount of Native American art in Old Town (much of which is presumably in his gallery), it seems counterproductive at best to mock the culture you are benefiting from. 

That said, free speech matters. The right to be an idiot should be protected, so long as you are not causing material loss to anyone other than yourself, and I don’t think one could reasonably make that case. While cancel culture has gotten out of hand on the whole, the quick proliferation of news stories often has the benefit of informing consumers where they shouldn’t spend their money. While he won’t face legal charges, he faces self-imposed ramifications: hurting his own brand, and that should be sufficient. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.

Thankfully for the Good Ortega, the Scottsdale Mayor Dave Ortega is still popular and does not seem to be hurt by this, nor should he be. The idiocy of one person deserves to be attached to only one person, which seems to be the case.