“Let’s be clear — Clay Breece does not get to decide what defines anti-Semitism or white supremacy,” said Pennsylania Democratic Party spokesman Brendan Welch. “The Berks County GOP had a chance to step up and make this right, but chose to double down on hateful and offensive conduct. There is no place for anti-Semitism, white supremacy or any form of hatred in our politics. It’s time for Republican officials in Berks County to take action. We once again call on Congressman Meuser, Commissioners Leinbach and Rivera, and Republican members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate to condemn this behavior and stop it from happening again.”
■ The leader of the Berks County Republican Committee is standing behind a pair of party Facebook posts this week that several civil rights groups and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party say are hateful, disturbing, divisive and anti-Semitic.
■ The posts, which were published recently on the committee’s official Facebook page, first drew sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia on Friday. That was quickly followed by calls from the The Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks and The Pennsylvania Democratic Party to take down the posts and issue an apology.
■ “We don’t want the meaning of a post to be lost in someone’s search for the outlandish notion of oppression,” [Berks GOP Chairman Clay Breece] said. “This is part of the globalist society that we live in. So we changed it, but the meaning remains the same. I believe comparing Wolf to a Nazi or to a socialist or to a Marxist is all the same,” he added. “Marxists, socialists and Nazis are all the same. Hitler was a socialist. And Wolf espouses socialist policies.”
Reading Eagle: Berks County GOP stands behind Facebook posts some criticized as anti-Semitic; governor target of one
By Karen Shuey
Gov. Tom Wolf is the target of one post at the Berks County Republican Party site that some groups have found offensive. The chief of GOP in Berks says the groups are overreacting.
The leader of the Berks County Republican Committee is standing behind a pair of party Facebook posts this week that several civil rights groups and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party say are hateful, disturbing, divisive and anti-Semitic.
The posts, which were published recently on the committee’s official Facebook page, first drew sharp criticism from the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia on Friday. That was quickly followed by calls from the The Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks and The Pennsylvania Democratic Party to take down the posts and issue an apology.
Berks County Republican Chairman Clay Breece said Saturday that the backlash against the posts is unwarranted.
“This is ridiculous. Of course, we don’t support or condone anti-Semitism,” he said, noting that he did not personally publish the posts and that multiple people have the ability to publish posts on the Facebook page.
The first post called Gov. Tom Wolf a Nazi and included a link to a news segment about how state police were preparing to enforce his stay-at-home order in counties that decided to reopen without the governor’s permission.
The post read, “ALL THIS BACKING DOWN HAS JUST EMBOLDENED THE NAZI Governor Tom Wolf.” It has since been edited to read, “ALL THIS BACKING DOWN HAS JUST EMBOLDENED THE Marxist Left and Governor Tom Wolf.”
“This analogy is offensive and wrong, and trivializes the suffering of six million Jews and millions of others who died at the hands of the Nazis,” the ADL statement read. “We are dismayed to see this shameful analogy deployed by a significant political organization in Pennsylvania … Holocaust analogies should only be used when referring to actual genocides, full stop.”
The second post shows a cartoon depiction of a man in the style of the “Rosie the Riveter” poster from the 1940s wearing a Make America Great Again hat and flashing the “OK” hand gesture.
“While in most cases this gesture is innocuous, it has been adopted by white supremacists as a ‘trolling’ tactic and as a symbol of white power,” the ADL said in its statement. “We believe this meme acts as a dog-whistle to white supremacists in the region, and only serves to normalize and mainstream their hateful ideology.”
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party issued its own statement Friday evening about the posts, calling them outrageous and offensive.
“This kind of rhetoric regarding our governor is revolting and intolerable,” said spokesman Brendan Welch. “For the sake of basic common decency, Republican officials in Berks County — Congressman Dan Meuser, the county commissioners and the members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate — must immediately and forcefully condemn this hateful conduct, and take action to ensure it does not happen again.”
Kevin Boughter, chairman of the Berks County Democratic Committee, said he was appalled by the posts, especially when the world is facing a global pandemic that does not care about geographical or political differences.
“While we certainly have policy differences with our Republican counterparts, we find it hard to believe that the Republican voters of Berks County are comfortable with the hateful, divisive references that their leadership has displayed,” he said. “The citizens of Berks County — of both parties — are better than this.”
Boughter said called on the Berks GOP leadership and its elected officials to apologize for adopting white supremacist imagery, return to civility in discourse and to always condemn expressions of hate and intolerance.
The Jewish Federation of Reading/Berks echoed the call for an apology and said the groups should immediately take the posts down.
The GOP response
Breece said the post comparing Wolf to a Nazi was accurate, but changed some of the language after receiving a call from someone outside the party who expressed concern.
“We don’t want the meaning of a post to be lost in someone’s search for the outlandish notion of oppression,” he said. “This is part of the globalist society that we live in. So we changed it, but the meaning remains the same.
“I believe comparing Wolf to a Nazi or to a socialist or to a Marxist is all the same,” he added. “Marxists, socialists and Nazis are all the same. Hitler was a socialist. And Wolf espouses socialist policies.”
Breece said the overall point of the post was to bring attention to how the governor’s stay-at-home order is leading to an economic depression that is endangering the lives and livelihoods of small business owners.
“They keep moving the goalposts,” he said. “It used to be to flatten the curve and now it’s to flatten the economy. People who own businesses are committing suicide or becoming alcoholics or are overdosing on drugs because they’re so depressed that everything they fought so hard for is going down the drain.
“What we’re seeing is a government takeover of our liberties.”
Breece said the state needs real leadership.
When asked if it’s fair to compare the governor to the Nazis, who murdered millions of people, Breece pointed to the high number of COVID-19 deaths that have occurred in nursing homes across the state.
He specifically referenced a published report that included testimony from a state Senate hearing in which lawmakers criticized the state health department for missing the window to slow the spread of the virus in nursing homes.
As for the post that featured a man flashing the “OK” sign, Breece said he has never heard that the sign has become associated with white supremacy.
“That’s some fifth-dimensional logic,” he said. “I’ve been using the OK sign since I was a child and that’s all it ever meant to me. And I don’t know anyone else who equates that with white supremacy.”
Breece stood by his decision not to take down the posts.
He said the Facebook page is fine the way it currently operates and that it’s the most successful social media page in the state. But, he said, people should feel free to reach out to the group if they have a complaint.