A Republican state representative in Ohio who blamed “homosexual marriage” and “recreational marijuana” – along with many of Donald Trump’s favourite targets – for gun massacres is facing calls from her own party to resign.
In a Facebook post, Candice Keller, who represents a conservative district near Dayton, where nine people were killed early on Sunday, mused about the causes of mass shootings including: family breakdown and same sex marriage, open borders, sportsmen who disrespect the flag and national anthem, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, a godless culture, and liberal “snowflakes”.
Some of the scapegoats, such as video games and open borders, are familiar talking points in rightwing media and have been cited by the US president himself. The reference to “professional athletes”, for example, was presumably aimed at Colin Kaepernick, a football player who has kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
But 60-year-old Keller’s screed went too far even for Republicans, who have been widely criticised for remaining loyal to Trump and failing to confront white nationalism in the wake of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Texas, that together left 31 people dead.
Jane Timken, chair of the Ohio Republican party, told the New York Times: “Candice Keller’s Facebook post was shocking and utterly unjustifiable. Our nation is reeling from these senseless acts of violence and public servants should be working to bring our communities together, not promoting divisiveness. I am calling on Candice Keller to resign.”
Richard Jones, the sheriff of Butler County, which Keller represents, about 30 miles south-west of Dayton, tweeted: “Candice Keller should resign at once. Shame shame.”
Democrats joined the condemnation. Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, wrote on Twitter: “Candice Keller needs to resign. No matter where you’re from, who you love, or what you look like, you’re welcome in Dayton. #DaytonStrong.”
Brian Hester, chairman of the Democratic party in Butler County, told the Dayton Daily News: “She loves to fan the flames and play the role of victim here, not the nine people who were killed … She is fundamentally unfit for office. She is an embarrassment to her party, to conservatives, to Butler County and to the state Legislature.”
Keller, who is the executive director of a crisis pregnancy centre, was elected in 2016 and is no stranger to controversy. She has compared the Planned Parenthood logo to a swastika and supported an Ohio bill that would “abolish” abortion and make it punishable by the death penalty.
Keller’s post, no longer on view on Facebook, blamed gun violence on “the breakdown of the traditional American family (thank you, transgender, homosexual marriage, and drag queen advocates); fatherlessness, a subject no one discusses or believes is relevant; the ignoring of violent video games; the relaxing of laws against criminals (open borders); the acceptance of recreational marijuana.
“… disrespect to law enforcement (thank you, Obama); hatred of our veterans (thank you, professional athletes who hate our flag and National Anthem); the Dem Congress, many members whom [sic] are openly anti-Semitic; the culture, which totally ignores the importance of God and the church … and snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.”
There is little sign that the backlash against Keller will turn into a backlash against Trump himself. As Democrats flooded the airwaves on Monday to draw a direct link between his racist rhetoric and the surge in violence, John Kasich, the Republican former governor of Ohio, tweeted: “I liked what @realDonaldTrump had to say today about reducing gun violence. Now it’s all about follow through to put us in a better position to be safer.”