Legislative Ethics Committee reprimands representative for sharing anti-Semitic cartoon | Local News


A House Republican issued a public apology last week for posting an anti-Semitic image on the conservative Speak website, following a decision by the Legislative Ethics Committee that he violated several State House policies .

“I sincerely apologize for echoing a meme with an image that has proven to be deeply offensive,” said Rep. James Spillane, “and I acknowledge that taking this action on my behalf as a representative of the ‘State without having conducted extensive research to determine the source of this image was an unfortunate error in my normal due diligence.

The apology came after a months-long investigation that found he had violated the Legislative Assembly’s public service principles and the policy against sex and other illegal harassment and discrimination, according to a report released by the committee. in the weekly House calendar Thursday.

In January, Spillane, a Republican from Deerfield, released a cartoon depicting a number of men in costume playing a board game on a “human table” of undressed servants, the committee found. The caption for the image – long considered an anti-Semitic meme – reads: “If we all stand up, their game is over.”

The cartoon, which was originally a street painting in London in 2012, showed many men in costume with exaggerated features often associated with anti-Semitic portrayals of the Jewish people.

Spillane shared it on the conservative social media platform Speak, which has positioned itself as an alternative to Twitter that allows posts that mainstream social media companies might otherwise ban.

The Deerfield Republican captioned the image “Okay. Truth.” Spillane later said he was unaware of the cartoon’s anti-Semitic background and shared it as elite condemnation.

A screenshot of Speaking’s message was later posted on Twitter and other social media platforms, and caught the attention of seven Jewish lawmakers, who filed a complaint with the ethics committee.

Speaking to the ethics committee, those lawmakers said seeing the image made them feel “pain, fear and revulsion.”

“They provided a moving testimony of how the social media post reminded them of the prejudices and hardships their families may have suffered due to historical discrimination or persecution based on their religious heritage,” the committee said of the lawmakers, who were not appointed.

Lawmakers who filed the complaint called on the committee to subject Spillane “to the strongest possible condemnation of his behavior,” and most of them called for him to be removed from office.

In its report, the committee said Spillane’s conduct was serious. The committee found that Spillane released the image in his capacity as a state official, and said his explanation that he did not know the origins of the image was not a defense.

“After examining the facts of this case as revealed by its investigation, the Committee believes that there is sufficient basis to initiate a formal prosecution against Representative Spillane,” the report said. “… It would appear for the most part that some or all of the men depicted in the image are Jewish and a reasonable amount of due diligence would have informed Representative Spillane that the image was controversial and could be deemed offensive by others.

But noting Spillane’s cooperation and apparent contrition, the committee withheld from formal proceedings, instead issuing a written warning and issuing a public letter of apology.

In his letter of apology, Spillane expressed his regret, saying he held the Jewish people in “the highest regard”.

“I am embarrassed that my failure to determine the hateful source of this image has resulted in offending and hurting so many others, especially those of the Jewish faith,” Spillane wrote.

The committee, however, argued that the conclusion should be a warning sign.

“Let this formal warning serve as advice to all lawmakers,” concluded committee chair Representative Ned Gordon in the committee report. “When you use your title or include your legislative position at the top or bottom of your social media posts, your posts should reflect the best principles of public service. “

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