An Ohio state lawmaker — who represents a district less than 30 miles from Dayton, Ohio, the scene of a deadly mass shooting over the weekend — blamed a slew of people and incidents for the uptick in gun massacres in the U.S., including Democrats, gay marriage and “drag queen advocates.”
In a since-deleted Facebook post on Sunday, Keller said the blame for mass shootings “belongs” on staple social and policy issues championed by the left, like gay marriage, recreational marijuana legalization, Black Lives Matter and protests of the national anthem. Several local outlets, like the Dayton Daily News and Ohio Public Radio were first to report on the social media post.
Keller has not denied she made the Facebook post. The Ohio Republican confirmed to the Dayton Daily News that screenshots of the post that were circulating on social media “sounded like” what she had posted on her personal Facebook page, but she couldn’t be sure if the text had been altered, in the Daily News’ words.
Keller did not immediately return TPM’s requests for comment.
Candice Keller is a Republican state representative from the Dayton area – this was published on her Facebook page, as reported by https://t.co/fvuPliWRL5: https://t.co/KOznWDXTZE pic.twitter.com/VDbpcAx9Xs
— Karen Kasler (@karenkasler) August 4, 2019
On Sunday, nine people were killed in 30 seconds when a shooter opened fire in the Oregon District of Dayton at 1 a.m. Police fatally shot the gunman, who authorities have identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts.
The gunman used a .223-caliber high capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines. He wore a mask, bulletproof vest and equipment to protect his ears. According to police, the gun was purchased in Texas online and transported to a local gun shop in Dayton.
It’s not the first time Rep. Keller has been derisive in the aftermath of a mass shooting, according to Butler County Democratic Party Chairman Brian Hester, who told TPM the state lawmaker has a “habit” of putting her Facebook account on the private setting when she “gets in trouble.” Hester said it’s possible Facebook might have taken down the post after Democrats in the area reported it.
After the Valentine’s Day massacre at Parkland High School in 2018, which sparked a swell of gun control activism among teenagers around the United States, Keller mocked the Parkland student survivors who organized a national protest in support of gun control legislation. During a rally lobbying against gun control legislation in Ohio, Keller argued that the teen activists shouldn’t be taken seriously because they were “eating Doritos and playing video games” before the attack. (Other national conservativs figures also seized on this rhetoric of attacking the teens at the time — from Fox News’ Laura Ingraham to President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.)
“A month ago, we weren’t really having this conversation, and all of a sudden a 15-year-old on television who would just as soon be eating Doritos and playing video games wants to tell me that my constitution needs to be changed. Really?” Keller said during the March 2018 rally. “I was born with the right to carry.”
Keller has been controversial in the past. She’s labeled Planned Parenthood “Nazis”; advocated against the removal of a Confederate memorials; and once gave an interview to a white nationalist online radio show, later claiming she was unaware of the host’s views until after her appearance.
Hester called Keller’s post a parroting of Trump’s “greatest hits” and said she’s a figure who has come to be “symbolic” of what happens when Republicans let Trump’s racist remarks and tweets go unchecked.
“I’m not surprised she posted this,” he told TPM Monday. “She is what happens when Republicans don’t speak out on Trump. If you read everything she said on that comment, it’s like Trump’s greatest hits. She goes after NFL athletes, she tries to go after the squad calling them anti-Semitic. All of it has absolutely nothing to do with the shooting.”
“I would remind people about the Pulse Nightclub shooting. She’s essentially blaming the victims — that the people being targeted in these shootings are somehow the reason they’re occurring, and it is appalling,” he continued. “This is what happens when the Republican Party doesn’t speak out on the rhetoric being used by Trump.”
The chair of the local Republican group appeared to softly call out Keller, or anyone who tries to “politicize” the Dayton shooting, in a statement to TPM on Monday.
“We are recognizing this is a time for prayer and reflections. Some want to politicize these events, I don’t condone or support any such comment or behavior,” Butler County Republican Party chair Todd Hall told TPM.
The chair of the Ohio Republican Party, meanwhile, called on Keller to resign.
“Our nation is reeling from these senseless acts of violence and public servants should be working to bring our communities together, not promoting divisiveness. I’m calling on Candice Keller to resign,” Jane Murphy Timken said in a statement to The Hill.