Just when you thought that the anti-Obama hate had finally died down, a pastor and state house candidate in Kentucky revealed just how nasty the hate still is. He plastered several blatantly racist memes on his Facebook page. His excuse? It was just a joke. Now he’s under pressure to pull out of the race.
Dan Johnson is the pastor and self-proclaimed bishop of Heart of Fire Church in Louisville. He’s also running as a Republican in the 49th state house district, anchored in Bullitt County south of Louisville, against Democratic incumbent Linda Belcher. His church’s sign declares, “Jesus and this church are not politically correct.”
On Thursday, WDRB in Louisville got a good idea of what Johnson’s definition of “not politically correct” is, in the form of several disgustingly racist memes plastered on Johnson’s Facebook page. One showed ape-like features photoshopped onto Barack and Michelle’s faces. Another was a picture of a baby chimp described as “Obama’s baby picture.”
Another picture depicted Ronald Reagan feeding a baby monkey–depicted as an infant Obama.
WDRB’s Lawrence Smith showed these pictures to Johnson when Johnson wondered what the big deal was about his posts. When he saw the images, the good bishop said with a straight face that he had no racist intent.
“It wasn’t meant to be racist. I can tell you that. My history’s good there. I can see how people would be offended in that. I wasn’t trying to offend anybody, but, I think Facebook’s entertaining.”
So when you post pictures of a black couple depicted as apes, it’s not racist, but “entertaining”? Yeah, OK. When Smith pressed him, Johnson said–again, with a straight face–that he was merely subjecting Obama to the same treatment as every other president. To not do so, he claimed, would be racist. After all, every other president has been the target of satire. By Friday, the images were gone. Johnson claims that Facebook spiked them after several people reported them.
In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, no one from either major party in the Commonwealth thinks this is funny. State GOP chairman Mac Brown denounced Johnson’s sentiments as “the rankest sort of prejudice present in our society,” and issued an unreserved apology to Kentucky’s African-American community. His Democratic counterpart, state representative and former lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Sannie Overly, called for Johnson to withdraw his candidacy, saying this sort of bilge “does not deserve a slap on the wrist or a second chance.”
By Saturday night, Kentucky Republican leaders had apparently come to the same conclusion as Overly. Brown and state house Republican leader Jeff Hoover wrote Johnson demanding that he withdraw from the race. Smith obtained a copy.
— Lawrence Smith (@LASmithReports) October 1, 2016
In a statement, the Kentucky GOP declared that Johnson’s racism “has no place in our party or in elected office.” Party communications director Tres Watson said that even though Johnson’s withdrawal will effectively hand Belcher another term, they would rather let “the seat go unchallenged” than have a racist knuckledragger among their number.
For now, Johnson has no plans to pull out. Sadly, he theoretically still has a chance to win this seat. According to Daily Kos’ database of state legislative election data, this district voted for Mitt Romney by a staggering 65-32 margin–making it one of the reddest districts in both Kentucky and the nation to be represented by a Democrat. Hopefully the people of this district have the guts to reject racism.
To my mind, though, Johnson needs to lose his day job as well. In what world is it acceptable for a pastor to spew this kind of garbage? He has disqualified himself from serving as a pastor several times over. Drop Johnson a line on his church’s Facebook page. If he has anything left in him, he will not only withdraw from the race, but give up his pulpit. Now.