CHICAGO (CBS) — In the wake of a controversy over an Illinois Republican group’s meme calling four minority Democratic congresswomen the “Jihad Squad,” the Kankakee County Democratic Party is under fire for sharing an image comparing President Donald Trump’s red “Make America Great Again” hats to KKK hoods.
The posts, which have since been removed from Twitter and Facebook, featured a picture of the “Make America Great Again” slogan imposed onto a red Ku Klux Klan mask, along with the words “What’s the difference between a Klan hood and a MAGA hat? The Klan hood was made in America.”
The Kane County Democrats’ meme drew swift criticism from the Kankakee County Republican Party, which demanded an apology.
“Comparing President Trump and his supporters to a white supremacist hate group that systemically engaged in terror and murder is absurd,” Keast told the Kankakee Daily Journal. “Democrat officials in our county must call out and reject such extreme rhetoric. While I appreciate that the county Democrats have since deleted their Facebook post, I believe they must apologize for their actions. They have gone too far.”
Tuesday morning, the Kankakee County Democrats posted an apology of sorts.
Chairman John Willard apologized “to the members of the Democratic Party and any others who may have been negatively affected by this clumsy misrepresentation of our intended message to purchase ‘Union Made’ and ‘Made in the U.S.A’ products.”
“The narrative of the meme addressed the issue of political campaigns buying products not made in the USA. Namely the MAGA hats.
The meme insinuated that KKK hoods are more likely to be made in America than MAGA hats,” he wrote on Facebook. “The post did not stay up long as it was deemed to miss the mark of clearly communicating the intended message. One of our moderators took it down soon after it posted. I thank you for a wise decision. My intended message is: It would help working Americans greatly if the enormous sums of money being spent on campaign paraphernalia were manufactured in the USA.”
The original post also had drawn criticism from Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who tweeted it was “wrong and lacks the civility our politics should demand.”
The recent post by the Kanakee Democratic County Chairman is wrong and lacks the civility our politics should demand.
— JB Pritzker (@JBPritzker) July 23, 2019
The Kankakee County Democrats’ post came on the heels of a social media controversy stirred by the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association, which posted an picture of a fake movie poster depicting four Democratic congresswomen as “The Jihad Squad.”
The image, which was later removed from social media, showed the faces of Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan on an action movie-style poster with the words “POLITICAL JIHAD IS THEIR GAME” and “IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THEIR SOCIALIST IDEOLOGY, YOU’RE RACIST.”
The meme also showed Omar holding an assault rifle and Pressley pointing a handgun.
A state level GOP group took down a mock movie poster depicting @AOC, @IlhanMN, @RepPressley & @RashidaTlaib as members of a "jihad squad." @ILGOP leaders denounced it as racist and bigoted, but some still lobbed generic attacks in the wake of the outcry.https://t.co/L9EM28fSIL
— Mark Maxwell (@MarkMaxwellTV) July 22, 2019
Illinois Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a Democrat from Olympia Fields, wrote on Twitter that the memes posted by Kankakee County Democrats and the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association “are shared far and wide across all political spectrums.”
“No one should be clutching their pearls like they haven’t seen it before,” she wrote. “It should make us all take a hard look at the power of social media to incite division and hate in our country. We should insist on doing better because I for one am tired of this.”
2/2: It should make us all take a hard look at the power of social media to incite division and hate in our country. We should insist on doing better because I for one am tired of this.
— Senator Toi Hutchinson (@ToiHutchinson) July 23, 2019
The Anti-Defamation League called the controversial two controversial memes “the worst in political rhetoric.”
“While we are pleased that Illinois Democratic and Republican leadership rejected these hate-filled, inciting posts, we are concerned that these statements are even being made. We expect better from our political leaders and must not see this behavior become normalized. We call on elected officials to raise the standard of political discourse and disavow the use of hateful rhetoric,” the ADL Midwest office posted on Twitter.