By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – State Rep. Paul Berch wants House Speaker Sherman Packard to take back his support of Rep. James Spillane voiced when he was first accused of posting an antisemitic meme on social media now that the House Ethics Committee has admonished Spillane.
Berch, D-Westmoreland, also wants Packard, R-Londonderry, to apologize to those who complained about Spillane and to sanction Spillane, a Republican from Deerfield.
Berch was one of the seven complainants regarding the antisemitic meme Spillane posted as a state representative Jan. 7 of what appears to be Jewish men playing Monopoly on the backs of subservient men. It was based on a controversial mural in London and included words of support from Spillane.
“Rep. Spillane referenced support from Speaker Packard’s office. The Speaker has been dismissive of the complaint, denied that the post was antisemitic except in the minds of the complainants, and said that this episode would not reflect negatively on Rep. Spillane,” Berch said in an email to InDepthNH.org.
It is time for Packard to walk back those comments and apologize to the complainants for disparaging their complaint now that is has been shown to be well-founded, Berch said.
“It is long past time for the Speaker to consider what sanctions he will issue regarding a member that has been found to have violated ethical rules, given sanctions that he has imposed for far less grievous behavior,” Berch said.
Berch took note of Spillane repeatedly terming the complaint “baseless and meritless.”
“And it is time for the Speaker to use his platform to address the New Hampshire House and condemn antisemitism and racism in all its forms – in clear and unmistakable terms. With his words and with his actions,” Berch said.
In his apology posted on the House calendar this week as part of the admonishment, Spillane said, “I sincerely apologize for the echoing of a meme with an image that turned out to be deeply offensive, and I acknowledge that taking that action in my name as a State Representative without having conducted thorough research to determine the source of that image was an unfortunate lapse in my normal due diligence. I am embarrassed that my failure to ascertain the hateful source of that image that resulted in offending and hurting so many others, especially those of the Jewish Faith. I have always held members of the Jewish Faith in the highest regard and with the utmost respect. I hope that my apology is accepted, and that others can learn, as I have learned, to conduct thorough and complete due diligence before making any postings, writings, or actions with an attribution to one’s status as a State Representative.”
Spillane and Packard didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Packard has also been under fire recently for supporting Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, and not removing him from chairing the Joint Fiscal Committee and Finance committee for sending committee members controversial documents including The Vaccine Death Report.
The death report says there “is evidence of millions of deaths and serious adverse events” resulting from the COVID-19 injections, and “The data suggests that we may currently be witnessing the greatest organized mass murder in the history of our world.”
It also contains anti-Catholic statements and claims that live creatures with tentacles are entering people’s bodies through the COVID vaccine, and said the Pope and the Catholic Church are satanists and luciferians for supporting public health measures.
Rep. Ned Gordon, R-Bristol, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, posted the informal resolution of a formal admonishment against Spillane on the House calendar. Gordon, a former judge and state senator, said the committee learned that after Spillane’s posting was publicized and he learned that some people found it offensive, Spillane immediately removed the posting and provided a letter of apology to the Speaker of the House.
“However, that letter was not released. There was no public apology to those persons who may have been offended,” Gordon wrote.
Gordon said the committee found the complaint had merit and voted to move forward to the preliminary investigation phase. In conducting its investigation, the committee communicated with the Department of Justice which had been asked to investigate the posting and the attorney general found no basis for criminal liability and closed its case, Gordon wrote.
The attorney general previously investigated a social media posting by Spillane after he posted a Facebook image that stated “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 with no action taken.
Gordon said the Spillane posting of the antisemitic mural included the words “IF WE ALL STAND UP, THEIR LITTLE GAME IS OVER,” which were superimposed on the top and bottom of the image. When posting, Spillane wrote “Agree. Truth,” which each of the complainants found personally offensive.
“They (complainants) provided moving testimony about how the social media posting reminded them of the prejudice and hardships their families may have suffered as a result of historic discrimination or persecution based upon their religious heritage,” Gordon wrote.
“As members of the House of Representatives, the complainants have indicated to the committee, both in writing and, for those who appeared before the committee, in person, that Representative Spillane’s posting caused them to feel pain, fear and revulsion,” Gordon wrote, adding Spillane “said he now understands why people were offended and truly regrets having made the posting. He acknowledged that if he had done some due diligence, this matter could have been avoided.”
Gordon said the admonishment will serve as a warning.
“Let this Formal Admonishment serve as notice to all Legislators. When you use your title or include your legislative position at the top or bottom of your social media postings, your postings should reflect the best principles of public service. When you put something on social media as a member of the General Court, you have a duty to know how it will affect others. And finally, having addressed this matter and made clear that they are responsible for the content they put on social media, the Committee will not hesitate to hold legislators accountable for similar violations in the future,” Gordon wrote.
Berch said he appreciated that the Ethics Committee conducted a full, fair and impartial investigation.
“I further appreciate that the committee determined that Rep. Spillane violated the House ‘Principles of Public Service’ as well as the House policies against unlawful harassment and discrimination.
“By issuing a Formal Admonishment of Rep. Spillane, the Committee also provided a stern warning that similar conduct by legislators will have consequences,” Berch said.