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

Sep 21, 2023, 3:45 PM | Updated: 5:09 pm

Image of Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at his monthly PBS news conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center ...

Gov. Spencer Cox speaks at his monthly PBS news conference at the Eccles Broadcast Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023. (Francisco Kjolseth)

(Francisco Kjolseth)

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.

You can watch the full news conference here:




We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

Image of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, speaking at UVU in Orem on April 22. Reyes was sued Mond...

Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Lawsuit accuses AG Sean Reyes of intimidating critic of Tim Ballard, OUR

The lawsuit is the fourth complaint against Ballard in recent months and the first time Reyes is named as a defendant.

23 hours ago

Honor Guard members carry a casket with the remains former first lady Rosalynn Carter out of a hear...

BILL BARROW Associated Press

Rosalynn Carter tributes highlight reach as first lady, humanitarian

Rosalynn Carter will lie in repose at The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta, followed by funerals in Atlanta and Plaines, Georgia.

24 hours ago

Two street signs pointing in opposite directions. One reads "censorship" and the other reads "free ...

Mariah Maynes

The role university leaders play in promoting free speech

University leadership plays a valuable role in promoting free speech on college campuses. By modeling discourse and promoting factual information, they can encourage students to do the same.

1 day ago

FILE - U.S. Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., holds a miniature American flag that was presented to him a...

JAKE OFFENHARTZ Associated Press

Rep. George Santos says he expects to be kicked out of Congress as expulsion vote looms

After a scathing report from the Ethics Committee, Rep. George Santos says he expects to be expelled from congress.

1 day ago

Parents and relatives of children kidnapped on October 7 hold a demonstration in Tel Aviv. (Alexi J...

Rob Picheta and Richard Greene, CNN

Hamas releases Israeli and Thai hostages from Gaza, officials say

A group of Israeli and Thai hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since October 7 has been released, as part of a deal.

4 days ago

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv call for the release of hostages held by Hamas on November 21 ahead of th...

Simone McCarthy and Sophie Tanno, CNN

Israel-Hamas truce believed to be holding, with hostage release expected in coming hours

Originally Published: 24 NOV 23 00:17 ET Updated: 24 NOV 23 08:33 ET (CNN) — A truce between Israel and Hamas that was scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. local time (12 a.m. ET) Friday is believed to be holding, with civilian hostages held captive by militants expected to be released in the coming hours […]

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

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