By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – State Rep. Rosemarie Rung, D-Merrimack, has been stripped of her committee assignment by Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard because of her social media post calling on New Hampshire police to denounce the Troy police chief for attending the pro-Trump rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6.
Rung questioned why she was singled out for exercising her right to free speech when other Republican House members went unpunished for racial and anti-Semitic social media postings.
Packard acknowledged Friday to InDepthNH.org that this is going to be a divisive session.
In a letter to House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, Packard accused Rung of acting “beneath the dignity of the House” and committing a “dangerous violation” of the tenet for how things get done in the House of Representatives by calling out Troy Police Chief David Ellis and naming him in a Twitter post.
Packard also accused her of contributing to the town of Troy being forced to shut down town hall last week because of threats of violence.
“Considering that Rep. Rung’s actions may have contributed to the town offices in Troy shutting down,” Packard wrote, “I am removing her from her committee assignments pending a bipartisan solution to this problem.”
Rung called the allegations absurd, and told Packard in an email exchange that she would have preferred he contact her originally, not Cushing.
“I find it absurd, especially without any evidence, that you think my tweet incited threats of violence,” Rung said.
And continued: “This is no time for you to play petty political games, particularly when there is a representative whose direct activity at the Governor’s home has resulted in threats of violence and that six Representatives have called for the secession of New Hampshire from the United States. Have they been stripped of their committee assignments?”
Rung told Packard he should support her proposed legislation that will also help the residents of Londonderry to have representation on a health and environmental commission. “The PFAS contamination of their drinking water is certainly more important than an attempt at a power play,” Rung wrote.
On Jan. 7, Rung posted: “David Ellis, the police chief from Troy, NH, traveled to the U.S. Capitol yesterday, joining rioters who wanted to overturn a free and fair election. All NH police need to denounce Ellis and call on his resignation. He was there to violate the U.S. Constitution. He did not step in to stop the attack as an off-duty officer but watched as many police officers were injured. He is a stain on each and every NH police officer who does not come out against him.”
Rung was assigned to the House Resources Recreation and Development Committee.
“I’m also wondering why you are singling me out when there has been no reported consequence for serious racial and anti-Semitic postings by other Representatives,” Rung said, referring to recent controversies surrounding two Republican House members, Dawn Johnson of Laconia, and James Spillane of Deerfield.
Last week, Acting Attorney General Jane Young said the Civil Rights Unit would look into a meme posted by Spillane that Cushing called anti-Semitic in seeking Spillane’s resignation.
The unit took no action against Spillane last fall after he posted a Facebook image that said: “Public Service Announcement: If you see a (Black Lives Matter) sign on a lawn it’s the same as having the porch light on for Halloween. You’re free to loot and burn that house.” Spillane said he meant that post as “tongue-in-cheek” political commentary and the investigation was closed.
The recent meme on the social media account Parler depicted what appears to be Jewish caricatures of men controlling the world through banking, a common anti-Semitic trope. Spillane shared the image with his own caption: “Truth. Agree.”
Spillane previously told InDepthNH.org that he was unaware the caricatures depicted Jewish people.
Last month, Dawn Johnson, who is also a Laconia school board member, shared an article on her social media platform from a notorious Neo-Nazi website. The article included a Jewish caricature as an illustration.
On Friday, Packard said he took no action against Johnson because she publicly apologized. “She apologized numerous times,” Packard said.
And he said there was no reason to take any action against Spillane because the meme didn’t appear to him to be anti-Semitic. Packard accused Democrats of photo-shopping Spillane’s post by removing the words. When republishing it, Packard said Democrats left off the words, “If the people stand the game is over” and he can’t see how it could be construed as anti-Semitic.
“I have yet to have anybody who has seen it say it is anti-Semitic,” Packard said, adding he supports Jewish people “100 percent.”
Packard has told Rung he would consider her request to resume her committee duties, “If you can demonstrate to me in a sincere manner that you regret the tone and the subject of your social media post, and that you realize how it could have contributed to the very serious situation the town of Troy and its public officials are experiencing…”
On Friday morning, Rung said she planned to attend a virtual committee orientation of the House Resources and Recreation and Development Committee because the ranking leadership was not notified of Packard’s letter.
Packard said Rung insinuated that Troy Chief Ellis was in a photo she posted of the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, when he has publicly stated he wasn’t.
“This is the one that set us off, insinuating he was in the picture as did (Democratic Party Chair Ray) Buckley and both knew damn well he wasn’t there. It’s absolutely despicable from the Democrats.”
Packard said since his exchange with Rung he has been getting many more emails questioning why Rung was singled out for a social media post and Johnson and Spillane were not.
“This is the kind of games they are playing,” Packard said of the Democrats.