Prominent Comal County Republicans on Friday criticized Party Chair Sue Gafford Piner, who joined the list of Texas GOP county chairs who either authored or shared racist posts on Facebook.
Piner’s shared post, which last appeared Sunday and has been since removed, promoted a racist conspiracy in the death of George Floyd, the black Minnesota man who died last week after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The post depicted an image of liberal billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, with text underneath stating, “I pay white cops to murder black people. And then I pay black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.”
The unfounded conspiracy theory against Soros, who is Jewish, is among many that have spread online during protests throughout the country against police brutality. Four other GOP county leaders in the state shared racist Facebook posts in recent days, including one that juxtaposed a quote from slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a banana.
Several local GOP past and current elected officials said Piner’s sharing of the post on Soros was a mistake, some saying it happens often on social media.
Piner, who didn’t return requests for comment Friday, appeared to have apologized before those posts were also removed.
“Comments about protesters are insensitive,” the San Antonio Current said Piner stated on Facebook. “So sorry if anyone hurt by comments [sic].” Then, two hours later, Piner made a separate post saying she’s “taking a break from Facebook.”
County Democrats were quick to pounce.
“It’s beyond inappropriate, yet frankly, not unexpected because this sort of rhetoric is systematic and insidious, and is perpetrated by those who fear loss of power,” said Gloria Meehan, Comal Democratic party chair. “This insensitivity comes from our collective history, drenched in the blood and built on the backs of black lives. We’re long past the tipping point when we can no longer tolerate the intolerable.”
Republican leaders in five Texas counties shared racist Facebook posts, some of which also f…
Four other GOP chairs posted
On Thursday The Texas Tribune reported that Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Texas Republicans called for resignations of Bexar County GOP Chair Cynthia Brehm and Nueces County Chair Jim Kaelin, who along with Harrison County Chair Lee Lester shared Brehm’s post that theorized Floyd’s death was a “staged event,” to gin up opposition against President Donald Trump. Keith Nielsen, incoming Harris County Republican Party chair, is also under fire after his Facebook post involving MLK.
There have been no such calls for Piner’s resignation just six months since Comal Republicans selected her to succeed Ruth Pharis in the position.
Pharis, who served four years as chair, stepped down for health reasons. Piner was unopposed to succeed her after leading New Braunfels and Canyon Lake Republican women’s clubs, as Precinct 406 GOP chair and as past president of the Republican Club of Comal County.
“This is horrible,” said Pharis, who said she hadn’t seen Piner’s shared post but had seen Brehm’s. “This is what the Democrats do and we don’t need to get down into the ditch like that. I’m very much opposed to posting things like that on the internet.
“First, you can’t prove anything or whether things happen or anything else. Sue didn’t say what was said but just posted it – which is really too bad and wish she hadn’t done it. Those are things you have to be careful about when you’re in a leadership position.”
Without his seeing the post and knowing what was behind it, Comal County Judge Sherman Krause said asking Piner to resign would be “premature.”
“Social media can be a very powerful social media tool but it can also be used to spread some pretty unfortunate and unnecessary things, which looks like what’s going on here,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would post or share anything like that (and seeing it) circulated on social media.”
“No story here”
District 73 state Rep. Kyle Biedermann admitted Piner and others could lose their positions but didn’t advocate they should.
“There’s no story here,” he said. “You have some people who did something they shouldn’t have done and they’re going to pay for it.”
When asked how, Biedermann replied, “They will lose their chair.”
Asked if he wanted Piner’s resignation, Biedermann said, “Sue learned a lesson – you don’t share other people’s stuff (on social media). It wasn’t the same as what the chair in Bexar did.
“If you really want to get down to it, there are so many people who have put inflammatory stuff on Facebook and nothing happened. It’s all timing, and it’s all wrong.”
Biedermann, when asked what he thought of the state of race relations in America, responded “It hasn’t changed much in a 1,000 years — evil people are going to be evil people.”
“Don’t be evil,” he said. “Love God like God loves you. It’s just unfortunate there’s so much evil in the world.”
Two former District 73 GOP state representatives slammed racism.
“I did not see it, so I have no comment on it,” said Carter Casteel, former Comal County Judge who served in the Texas House from 2003-07. “But I do know, from my perspective, united as a country we stand and divided we die. I only hope we’re respectful of each other, regardless of our race, age or sex.”
“There’s no need to fan the flames of racism through social media,” said Doug Miller, former New Braunfels mayor who succeeded Casteel in the House and served from 2009-17.
“The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln and civil rights,” District 25 state Sen. Donna Campbell posted on Twitter. “I am heartbroken to see insensitive and divisive rhetoric being expressed over the tragic killing of George Floyd when our nation needs healing. I ask all leaders to set an example and be the light in the darkness that overcomes hate.”
“A man died, I mean died, at the hands of a bad cop,” Comal County Sheriff Mark Reynolds said. “I’m just hoping justice is served in this particular case. I’m just a witness to everything everyone has seen on TV. My hope is that those who are calm realize that not all law enforcement is like that person, who’s not even a cop anymore, and the other three who were witnesses but didn’t take any action towards it.”
Democrat Bob Wolf said the same.
“Seeing the video of Mr. George Floyd being suffocated made me ill. For anyone to post or forward that his death was somehow a staged conspiracy against President Trump is troubling no matter which party you support,” he said. “What occurred to Mr. Floyd was a tragedy and injustice, not a political conspiracy.”
Roxanna Deane, president of the League of Women Voters of the Comal Area, said the organization rarely comments on political issues but is making an exception.
“The League is nonpartisan and rarely comments about political parties or officials but we are disappointed that anyone would use this terrible event for partisan purposes,” she said. “We grieve the murders of George Floyd and the countless other Black lives that have been tragically taken at the hands of rogue law enforcement officers.
“We will continue our work to inform voters and hold government accountable in support of our partners in the civil rights community and in solidarity with the message that Black Lives Matter.”
D.J. Seeger, who leads Comal County’s Young Republicans, said he’s out to change the image some might have of the party after social media blunders by older GOP chairs.
“I don’t think it beneficial to share a meme like that — without any fact checking behind it,” Seeger said. “We as a club feel there’s a bigger issue with this whole thing. There’s a cry coming from the black community because of the racial injustice in this country.
“Instead of delving into something that can’t be verified, I think as a party we should be focusing things that can unify not just the party but the country.
“What happened to George Floyd is a nonpartisan issue. It was a brutal murder that paints a bigger picture of racial injustice. We are certainly not behind this (post).”