Politics

08.07.14

The GOP's Many Facebook Fiascos

A Virginia Republican resigned his post for sassing President Obama over Muslims. That's tame compared to the C-word and racism other Republicans have thrown on the social network.

A Republican official in Virginia with a history of controversial Facebook posts resigned Wednesday evening, the latest in a string of Republicans who have posted ignominious Facebook remarks that the public didn’t “like.”

State party treasurer Bob FitzSimmonds stepped down after responding to a message President Barack Obama posted commemorating the end of Ramadan.

Obama hailed Muslims for “the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.”

The praise irked FitzSimmonds, who according to the Washington Post wrote on Facebook, “Exactly what part of our nation’s fabric was woven by Muslims? … What about Sikhs, Animists, and Jainists? Should we be thanking them too?”

FitzSimmonds had previously declined to step down after calling fellow Republican Barbara Comstock, who is running for Congress, a crude word referring to female genitalia. FitzSimmonds claimed he meant to use the word, “twaddle.”

FitzSimmonds is far from the first Republican official or staffer to resign after embarrassing incidents on Facebook, a quasi-private setting that seems to bring out the worst in public officials.

In Iowa, the state GOP had to fire its social media contractor after he posted an offensive flowchart asking "Is Someone A Racist." The posting, first reported by The Daily Beast, provided a way for to determine if readers were or weren't racist. According to the flowchart, if they weren't white, they were automatically not a racist. In a statement apologizing for the post, A.J. Spiker, the state party chair at the time, said that it was "in bad taste and inappropriate." 

Robert Krahulik, an upstate New York GOP county chairman, resigned in February after his ex-girlfriend called him out for sharing lewd pictures of himself with other women (his ex-girlfriend subsequently posted, then took down, copies of these pictures on Facebook).

Last year, a staffer for Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen resigned after calling a female state senator the C-word on Facebook. And in 2012, a spokesman for then-Rep. Nan Hayworth’s reelection campaign resigned after suggesting on Facebook that one should “hurl some acid” at female political opponents.

And then there are those who just rode through the controversy and refused to resign despite public pressure.

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema declined to resign after posting an anti-gay article on his Facebook page. The article accused gays and lesbians of having a “filthy lifestyle” and blamed them for a series of social problems.

The chairwoman of the Republican committee for Montana’s largest county similarly refused to step down after a public outcry for a racist joke she made on Facebook about the president. A photo showing a trap set with a watermelon was accompanied with a caption that read, ““BREAKING NEWS: The Secret Service just uncovered a plot to kidnap the president,” according to the AP.

Heated and offensive Facebook comments are by no means the exclusive purview of Republican officials. On Thursday, a heated Facebook exchange about Israel led a member of the College Democrats to resign.

So, if you’re a public official, consider keeping your bigoted thoughts off of your social media accounts. Or perhaps just delete your social media accounts altogether.