Sheriff under fire over ‘like’ of FB post defending KKK, neo-Nazi groups

Updated, 4:00 p.m. With expanded comments from Caln Commissioner Josh Young

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh

The Sheriff of Chester County is under fire from county Democrats, local elected officials and social media users after liking a Facebook post that suggested Klan members, Neo-Nazi’s and White Supremacists offer less of threat to property and human life than members of Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists.

While some local elected officials are calling for her resignation, Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh argued that it was all a misunderstanding.

“It has been called to my attention that a reaction I had to someone else’s Facebook post has been grossly misconstrued,” Welsh said in a statement late Tuesday night. “By adding a ‘like’ to a statement by Kevin Martin, a young, conservative, black man, I was registering support for his commitment to expressing independent views, not specifically espousing those views. As someone who has always embraced a diversity of opinions, I am profoundly saddened by many recent headlines that suggest that some Americans have become so caught up in their own ideology that they can no longer listen to opposing information. During this divisive time in our country, I believe we need to find ways to encourage such individuals to promote peace rather than stir conflict, and I would welcome ideas on how to accomplish that.”

The original post, by Kevin Martin, said:

“The reason why the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists are so freely called out and condemned by politicians, while Black Lives Matter and Antifa aren’t, is because the KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacist (sic) pose no real imminent threat to property, and human life : Antifa, and BLM, Do.”

A screen capture of the original post, with the “Like” by Welsh.

The local uproar — sparked after bloody confrontations in Charlottesville, Va., led to the apparent murder of a 32-year-old woman by a self-described White Nationalist — has been further amplified by comments by President Donald Trump equating the violence of the Neo-Nazis and KKK with that of leftist groups such as Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Those statements, especially after the President’s press conference Tuesday, have largely been disavowed by Republican elected officials, although a couple of Chester County Congressman have remained silent on the issue.

Democrats, though, argue that Trump — and by extension, Welsh’s social media behavior — are symptoms of a greater problem within the Republican Party.

“It is time for the Republican Party to admit it has a problem with racism and take steps to address it forcefully,” said Brian McGinnis, Chair of the Chester County Democratic Committee. “Republicans’ fear mongering and the targeting of voters of color as a political wedge is a tactic we condemn, especially in light of tepid Trump comments on Charlottesville, VA tragedy. They can no longer claim to be the party of Lincoln. Our campaigns and our elections have got to be free and fair, and represent American freedom, fairness and values. We will speak out when we see our citizens being intimidated, manipulated and humiliated for political gain.”

While condemning the violence of both sides, local Republicans swatted back at Democrats for politicizing the events in Charlottesville.

“The violent fringe-right and fringe-left groups that endanger lives and destroy property are despicable organizations that are hurting our country,” said Shannon Royer, a senior advisor for the Chester County Republican Committee. “This was tragically the case in Charlottesville with the hateful actions of a white nationalist. Our hearts break for the family of Heather Heyer, the latest victim of deranged political hostility.

Royer defended Welsh — noting her years of service and deep commitment to the Chester County community. 

“Sheriff Welsh is a nationally-recognized law enforcement official who is committed to protecting our county,” Royer said. “She is also a deeply compassionate person who has a history of helping local families. Anyone who knows Sheriff Welsh also knows that she has no patience for hate groups and political violence. Only dishonest, hyper-partisan opponents would believe otherwise. It is disappointing that some are using the Charlottesville tragedy to manufacture a local controversy. As we continue to absorb the shock of recent events, we hope that the cheap political shots will stop.”

At least two local elected officials, Caln Township Commissioner Josh Young and Coatesville City Council Member Marie Lawson, expressed anger at Welsh on Facebook Tuesday. Young asked whether the Chester County Democratic Executive Committee could hold a vote calling for Welsh’s resignation, saying she no could no longer serve in the office.

“I believe strongly that Sheriff Welsh has lost the moral authority to continue to serve as an elected official and a law enforcement official that entrusted with ensuring everyone’s rights,” Young said. “I hope she does the right thing and resigns.

Meanwhile, Lawson questioned how Welsh could possibly continue in her job:

“She is the top ranking official for the Sheriff’s Department, who supports white supremacy in one of the most diverse counties in Pennsylvania,” Lawson wrote in a post Tuesday. “How can you be fair an unbiased in that position when you are so strongly supportive of hatred on social media?” 

Meanwhile county Democrats are also calling out state (and long-time county) GOP chair Val DiGiorgio over fliers distributed in South Philadelphia as part of the campaign for city District Attorney over the weekend highlighting corruption charges against various city Democrats. The issue, Democrats say, is that the flier highlights only African-American and Latina officials and ignores white officials who also faced charges. Citing a story in Monday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Democrats argued that it was another example of GOP insensitivity to racial issues.

“Yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer article pointed out accurately that campaign flyers for the District Attorney’s race in Philadelphia had attacked only minority — African American and Latina — politicians for corruption,” the DCCC’s McGinnis said in a statement issued late Tuesday night. “The flyer – distributed in predominantly white South Philadelphia – clearly seeks to make race an issue in the DA campaign.”

DiGiorgio, though, as did Royer on the Welsh issue, suggested that Democrats were looking to exploit race for political reasons and questioned The Inquirer’s motives for running the story.

“As someone who is the husband of a Honduran immigrant, the father of hispanic children and who fought tirelessly to elect Chester County’s only African-American state legislator, Harry Lewis, I take great offense at any suggestion that I acted with racist motives,” DiGiorgio said in a statement issues Wednesday. “The Philadelphia Inquirer article is nothing more than race baiting during a very sensitive time in our nation. They should act more responsibly.”

McGinnis denied that, arguing the opposite, that it was Republicans playing to the baser instincts of a minority of the party to raise support and dollars, and claimed DiGiorgio and state Republicans were using the Inquirer story to fund raise.

“Now PA State (and Chester County) GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio is fundraising off of this article, blasting the media for writing about it,” McGinnis said. “Republicans’ fear mongering and the targeting of people of color as a political wedge is a tactic we condemn. Especially in light of Trump comments on the Charlottesville, VA tragedy. How quickly the state Republicans have forgotten about their own political corruption — John Perzel, Ernie Preate, Bob Asher or Frank Serafini to name-drop a few, as well as overwhelming amounts of outside money buying influence in the current state legislature.”

Meanwhile, elected officials from both parties reacted strongly to comments made by Trump during Tuesday afternoon’s impromptu press conference, where he appeared to equate Neo-Nazis and Klan members with Black Lives Matter and Antifa.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-16) — ironically just back from a Congressional Delegation trip to Israel — tweeted his disapproval of Trump’s comments Tuesday afternoon:

“Those who march under Nazi flags or with KKK-affiliated groups are not ‘fine people.’ “

At this writing, no formal comment has appeared from either U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6) or U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-7).

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey issued a statement mid-day Wednesday, taking issue with Trump’s comments.

“There is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, bigots, and white supremacists, and those who oppose them,” Toomey said. “Our country has no room for corrupt ideology or violent acts.”

Pennsylvania’s Democrats uniformly condemned the comments, with the strongest denunciation coming from Gov. Tom Wolf in a string of Twitter posts, Tuesday.

First, he quoted and called out President Trump:

“Mr. President – an innocent woman died because a terrorist drove into a crowd of peaceful protesters. She deserves better than this,” in reply to this comment from Trump:

“I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it,” Trump said during his press conference, Tuesday.

A feisty Wolf would have none of that:

“One side had torches, confederate & swastika flags, Nazi slogans and bigoted chants,” he Tweeted.

And then:

“Americans died to defeat hate like this. They deserve better.”

And finally:

“Americans deserve to know that in the face of hatred, bigotry and violence, all of their leaders will condemn these un-American values,” Wolf Tweeted.

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  1. Sally Braffman says:

    It begs credulity that Sheriff Welsh just happened across that post and ‘liked’ it in the interest of fostering expression of varying viewpoints. Nor is it believable that she bought and promoted the new book by Dinesh D’Souza to explore the range of perspectives in today’s world.

    Simply put, she is one of them…and I don’t feel safe with one of them in charge of our police force.

    She should resign.

    • Anonymous says:

      Here’s an idea….Move if you’re so unhappy !!!

    • Ishma says:

      You are a delusional and a danger to yourself and others, if you believe that this Sheriff is anything resembling.ANY of these hate groups.

    • Pat says:

      Your s Fkng idiot. Just looking for an excuse to fire someone. This was classici misunderstanding and your attacking. The point was made she explained it…done over with. Stop looking for something that isnt there …asswipe

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