Democratic lawmaker facing criticism for Limbaugh meme

February 13, 2020 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — The head of Delaware’s Republican Party is calling for the resignation of a Democratic state senator who shared an image on social media suggesting that conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Senate Majority Whip Bryan Townsend posted the meme on Twitter on Saturday after Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.

The Twitter image is a cartoon of several hooded figures in white robes, one of whom is wearing a medal hanging from a blue sash around the neck. The meme reads: “Find Rush Limbaugh.”

In retweeting the image, Townsend, a Newark Democrat added: “Whoever finds him gets a medal.”

Delaware Republican Party chairwoman Jane Brady responded by calling for Townsend’s resignation and for state Senate leadership to take “appropriate disciplinary action.”

“A leader in the Democratic Party, Senator Bryan Townsend posted a disgusting meme invoking the Klu (sic) Klux Klan against a recipient of the highest civilian honor this country can bestow,” Brady said in a prepared statement.

Townsend is standing by his actions.

“Hate speech and criticism of hate speech are not the same thing,” he wrote in an email. “I retweeted a cartoon depicting someone with a long public history of hateful, divisive remarks standing as part of a group known for hateful, divisive conduct. I’ll own that decision, and I wish Mr. Limbaugh and his family the best as he begins his fight against cancer.”

The Delaware Democratic Party also is defending Townsend.

“Mr. Limbaugh has a long and sordid history of racism, and that President Trump saw fit to honor him with the nation’s highest civilian honor is the offensive part of this story,” state party chairman Erik Raser-Schramm said in a prepared statement. “That Mr. Limbaugh is facing a grave cancer diagnosis is the sad part. We offer our thoughts and prayers.”

Last month, Brady asked for and received the resignation of New Castle County GOP chairman Chris Rowe after Rowe used a homosexual slur on Facebook in complaining about not being allowed to share a video of a Texas church shooting where the gunman was shot and killed by security volunteers. Brady also criticized Sussex County GOP vice chair Nelly Jordan for “offensive, hurtful and anti-Semitic” comments after Jordan complained that Jews were complicit in Trump’s impeachment. Jordan was later ousted by the Sussex GOP.

“How will the Delaware Democrats respond?” she wrote in reference to Townsend’s post. “Will you too, act to address the lack of respect by one of your members? Your failure to do so will display a tolerance for the intolerant, sanction offensive conduct, and encourage more of the same.”

Among those liking Townsend’s tweet were the Sussex County Democratic Party, a member of the Senate Democratic caucus staff, Delaware AFL-CIO President James Maravelias and state Rep. Paul Baumbach, who retweeted it.

Last year, Baumbach, a Newark Democrat, posted a tweet mimicking an obscenity Trump had used in questioning why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from places like Haiti and Africa. Baumbach’s tweet came after Venezuela, Uruguay and Japan warned their citizens about traveling to the United States after mass shootings in Ohio and Texas left more than 30 people dead.

“Which is the s-----— country now?” Baumbach wrote. “Thanks are due to the NRA and the best politicians that blood money can buy.”