AUGUSTA, Maine (CBSDC/AP) — A state senator said Wednesday that he has no intention of resigning over a series of offensive Facebook posts, including one that suggests President Barack Obama’s family members are part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Maine Democratic Party has called on Republican Sen. Michael Willette to step down over what they described as a “prolific online history of racist and bigoted remarks.”
But Willette, who represents areas in the northernmost county of Maine, told reporters that he doesn’t see the need to resign. He apologized to his colleagues for his behavior and promised his “mistake in judgment” won’t be repeated.
“I apologize for posting this on Facebook. Like too many people these days, I fell into the trap of posting something first and then thinking later. It was an error in judgment,” he told the Portland Press Herald.
Willette was criticized this week for sharing a photo of Obama on Facebook that pretended to use the president’s words, saying of ISIS, “I’ll deal with them at the family reunion.”
In posts that were later made public by a liberal blogger, Willette expressed animosity toward Muslims and suggested that members of Obama’s administration are part of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Democratic Party said Willette’s Facebook posts show a clear pattern of inappropriate behavior that cannot be tolerated.
“Senator Willette’s extensive history of offensive, bigoted and racist remarks suggests that they represent his core beliefs, which have no place in the State House and damage the integrity of the office he holds,” Chairman Phil Bartlett said in a statement.
Just before Democrats asked for his resignation, Willette — a former Democrat — told his fellow senators that he had voted for Obama in 2008 but has become frustrated with his policies and performance over the years, prompting him to make the inappropriate remarks.
“I think many of us can identify with the temptation to not listen to our better angels and instead to lash out publicly against those with whom we disagree,” he said. “As a state legislator, I am held to a higher standard — we all are — and we need to show restraint.”
Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond said the decision of whether Willette remains in his post should be left up to his constituents. But he said his caucus plans to make it clear that racism and bigotry are not condoned in Maine.
Republicans said they appreciate his apology and believe it it’s time to move forward.
“It’s sad if we get to the point where we fan this flame just to score political points,” Senate President Michael Thibodeau said.
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