Barron County Republican Party officials apologized Thursday for a post about undocumented immigrants on its official Facebook page that included what is widely considered to be a racist slur.
The post used a graphic of S.C. Johnson’s Scrubbing Bubbles toilet cleaner packaging that was altered to call into question the legality of potential Democratic Party methods to gain representatives in a so-called “blue wave.”
Under the banner “Blue Wave Kit,” it referred to “illegal voter drop-ins” and suggested the recipe for Democratic gains was to “register millions of corpses and illegals to vote Democratic.” Printed on the toilet disc images were the words “corpses” and “wetbacks,” which Dictionary.com defines as “a contemptuous term used to refer to a Mexican laborer who enters the U.S. illegally, as by wading the Rio Grande.”
“That is really disturbing,” said UW-Eau Claire history professor Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, adding that the term “wetback” is definitely a slur. “It is protected speech, but it does not convey the ideas of good judgment, self-control, self-help and intelligence that local Republicans here value and like to project.”
The post, activated Tuesday morning, indicated the “kit” could be used to “scrub away conservatives” and “destroy America one election at a time.”
“Those inappropriate messages were not authorized by the county party and do not reflect the views of the Barron County Republican Party,” spokesman Jim Gary said in a statement on behalf of the county party, which is autonomous from the state GOP. “As soon as we were made aware of the post we removed it from our page.
“We are investigating as to why they were posted in the first place and are taking the appropriate steps to make sure that this does not happen in the future. That type of rhetoric does not reflect our views and has no place in our party or our politics.”
Barron County GOP co-chairman Bob Newville added, “I’m just sick over this” and said the person responsible for the post will no longer be permitted to post on the county party’s Facebook page.
The post sparked a flurry of condemnation from both major parties.
“The posted content is highly offensive, unacceptable and has no place in either the Republican Party or Wisconsin politics,” Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Democrats also expressed outrage.
“This type of racist rhetoric shows the level of hate and anger the Republican Party has allowed in our communities,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairwoman Martha Laning said.
She called on Republican Gov. Scott Walker, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy of Wausau, state Rep. Romaine Quinn of Barron and state Senate candidate James Bolen of Cable to “condemn this disturbing post in the strongest terms possible.”
Barron County Democratic Party chairman Gerry Lisi said the post surprised him and he was glad to hear county GOP leaders disavowed it.
While political dialogue generally doesn’t stoop that low in Barron County, Lisi said the county GOP Facebook page and website have had a pattern of posts over the past year that he believes have crossed the line of appropriateness.
Regarding the Blue Wave Kit meme, Lisi said the person who posted it must be tone deaf.
“It’s almost as if they don’t realize there is a large Hispanic population in Barron County that would be really offended by this,” he said.
Ducksworth-Lawton agreed, saying that disrespecting the fastest-growing multicultural group in west-central Wisconsin doesn’t seem like a smart political strategy.
“Name calling is contempt, and contempt does not persuade people to vote for you,” Ducksworth-Lawton said.
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