Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson posted what he calls a “meme” on Facebook that read “God’s Punishment to Liberal California,” and “Hell on Earth brought to you by the Liberals in California!” over an image of burning forests, per Cleveland.com. Johnson posted and deleted the stomach-churning post on Sunday, though he seems more frustrated than apologetic.
Speaking to Cleveland.com about the matter, he said: “look, that’s a meme. And it’s how I feel about liberals, but did I mean that God is going to punish everyone who lives in California? No. It’s a figure of speech, and I probably shouldn’t have done it. But I did, and it doesn’t change how I feel about what’s happened in California.”
To Johnson, Democrats are directly to blame for the wildfires that have taken 77 lives and burned 10,500 homes across 234 square miles. That’s what he saw as the post’s message. As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, though, the federal government owns more than half of California’s forested land. Up until the midterms, Republicans controlled every branch of government—not Democrats. Furthermore, fire experts have blamed climate change for the fire’s severity, an issue the President chooses to ignore.
Dismissing offensive comments as humor, or “memes” in this case, is classic GOP. Johnson himself doesn’t think the post is in bad taste. He went on to say “now to the extent that that meme would have offended or hurt someone in California, yes, that’s not the intent, and I don’t think that’s what it says. But you know, it’s in the eyes of the beholder, and so if it offended anyone that had a loss of life, then I’m sorry. That was not my intent.” By prefacing his apology with the statement that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he puts the blame on the offended party rather than taking it on himself. Regardless of the intent, the damage is done.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras recognized that in his response to Johnson’s post, as well as the interview. Betras called for Johnson to apologize and resign. He argued that Johnson’s ignorance toward the situation proves he’s unfit to serve the public.
Johnson, the picture of maturity, responded: “they’re trying to make an issue out of it because they got their butts kicked in this election cycle.”