GOP group muffs bid to back Trump racism

Republican County Chairmen’s Association yanks post attacking ‘Jihad Squad’

Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley respond to President Trump’s racist tweets in a Washington, D.C., news conference last week. (Twitter/Pamela Geller)

Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley respond to President Trump’s racist tweets in a Washington, D.C., news conference last week. (Twitter/Pamela Geller)

By Ted Cox

A statewide Republican group abruptly backtracked after supporting President Trump’s racist attack on four congresswomen with a similarly twisted post on social media over the weekend.

The Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association disavowed its own Facebook post attacking U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

The four first-term Democrats, outspoken critics of the president, had been targeted by Trump in a tweet declaring they should “go back” to “the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”

Trump’s tweet was broadly criticized as racist, even more so as all four are, of course, U.S. citizens, and only Omar, a onetime Somali refugee, was not native born in the United States. Pressley, in fact, grew up in Chicago and attended the prestigious Francis Parker School in Lincoln Park.

While one thing in the political sphere of Twitter, the language is considered something else in the larger society and the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a policy stating that comments like “go back to where you came from” are examples of “potentially unlawful conduct.”

The IRCCA, however, made that attack seem tame with its Facebook post put up Friday. The four minority congresswomen are known as “The Squad” for leading the progressive movement in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the IRCCA post consisted of a movie-poster lampoon casting them in “The Jihad Squad.”

“Jihad” translates as a Muslim holy war, and the phony movie poster finds Omar and Pressley brandishing guns, while Ocasio-Cortez appears cross-eyed. “Political jihad is their game,” the poster reads, adding, “If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re racist.” It includes an IRCCA logo in the corner with a map of Illinois and an image of an elephant, the symbol of the Republican Party.

The post was immediately derided by both Democrats and Republicans. Calling it “racist and inflammatory,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who also heads the county’s Democratic Party, issued a statement Sunday saying, “The post perpetuates the recent attacks by President Trump, promoting lies and racism to alienate immigrants, women, and people of color. This language of hatred and bigotry has no room in our society and has dangerous consequences.”

Cook County Republican Party Chairman Sean Morrison posted Sunday afternoon on Twitter that he was “appalled,” labeling it “hateful rhetoric” and calling for the post to be taken down, which it soon was.

“There are civil ways to express political differences that do not involve going to racist extremes,” Morrison said, adding that the post “only serves to further the hateful divide within our country, when we should instead strive for an intelligent, civil, and thoughtful discussion of the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats.”

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Timothy Schneider echoed that, issuing a statement to Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Lynn Sweet saying, “I strongly condemn evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement. The recent social-media post coming from the IRCCA does not reflect my values or the Illinois Republican Party’s values. Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation.”

Lake County GOP Chairman Mark Shaw, president of the IRCCA, issued an apology calling the faux film poster an “unauthorized posting” and saying the group’s “internal review process is being re-evaluated.”

Both Schneider and Shaw, however, made sure to slip in charges calling the four U.S. representatives “socialist” and “anti-Semitic.”

It is not the job of One Illinois to defend members of Congress of either party, but it should be emphasized that, while Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialist, like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate, her proposal for a “Green New Deal,” specifically cited by Schneider, is in fact an attempt to recreate a Depression-era jobs program specifically to address renewable energy and climate change. Omar, meanwhile, has criticized Israel and the Israeli lobby in the United States, but only a politician trying to blur the facts would suggest that translates as being anti-Semitic.