Calls for a state lawmaker to step down continue to grow following comments he made to a former state representative.
State rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) said he regrets the words he used in a Facebook exchange he had with his former legislative colleague, Democrat LaDawn Jones, who is also an 11Alive political analyst.
When Spencer posted a picture of himself at a Jefferson Davis site in south Georgia, he concluded the post by telling viewers “this is Georgia’s history.” #Dealwithit.
Jones responded: “Put your hoods and tiki torches away. We will not let you hide hate behind heritage.”
Spencer responded with: “you won’t be met with torches but something a lot more definitive. People in South Georgia are people of action, not drama...” adding that visitors from Atlanta “will go missing in the Okefenokee. Too many necks they are red around here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about ‘em.”
On Saturday, members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus said comments like the ones Spencer made won't be tolerated from elected officials.
"Noble men and women should not talk to each other like that at any time and we should hold him to a high regard, but we can't based on the remarks he made so therefore we need him to resign from office," said Dee Dawkins-Haiger, a former state representative and former president of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.
Jones said she didn’t take Spencer’s comments as a threat to her, but said Spencer shouldn't be comfortable knowing people who would take such actions.
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Georgia and Atlanta NAACP and other groups issued a joint statement, calling on Spencer to apologize or resign.
“Although Rep. Spencer's Aug. 30th statement expresses regret that others 'misinterpreted' what he said, his comments were as clear as they were dangerous. Rep. Spencer sought to intimidate an African-American woman by telling her that the residents of his district would murder her, and throw her body in a swamp, if she dared to visit the region and call for the removal of its Confederate monuments,” the statement said.
“Republican and Democratic lawmakers must now unite to condemn Rep. Spencer's remarks and demand that he sincerely apologizes,” the groups continued. “House leadership must also pledge to remove Rep. Spencer from the Game, Fish & Parks committee, for a politician who raises the specter of a lynching to protect Confederate monuments from criticism has no business making decisions about those monuments.
“Finally, if Rep. Spencer keeps refusing to retract and apologize for his remarks, Georgia lawmakers should demand his resignation from the Georgia General Assembly.”
This is the text of the full statement Spencer released on August 30 after the controversy began:“I respect former State Representative LaDawn Jones as a colleague and as my former seat mate in the Georgia House of Representatives. I respect her for her passion, her willingness to engage in debate with me, and her ability to advocate strongly for what she believes. She has always done so aggressively and without any fear. She’s never backed down from me in any of the debates we’ve ever had, even if those debates might have appeared to others that we were being hostile or rude to each other. LaDawn and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but I am glad that she wants to learn how people with different worldviews think. It’s a rare trait in most people, and she deserves praise and respect for having it.
“I regret that my choice of words in warning LaDawn about the possibility of violence has been misinterpreted as a threat against her, or anyone else who would like to see historic monuments to the Confederacy removed. I was trying to warn her that there really are people who would harm others over the issue. In light of the recent tragic murder of a woman in Charlottesville, I believe that a certain degree of caution is necessary. I still do.
“I condemn racism, ‘white supremacy’ and any group from the yesterday’s Klan to today’s neo-Nazis, who espouses such vile beliefs. They should not be tolerated. Provoking such hateful people is to deliberately invite violence with them, and that should not happen in America in the 21st century.“The racial division in our nation is terrible and is going to get worse if my colleague and I cannot have the kind of conversation we had on social media and will continue to have face-to-face. It is a painful conversation that we need to have, in our communities, our state, and our nation. I’m grateful that LaDawn Jones is willing to start that conversation with me, and I hope that our experience will start similar conversations among others.”