Being on Facebook is like living in a glass house, there’s nothing to hide behind. State Board of Education President Debe Terhar quickly found out that social networking can bite back big time when she posted a picture of Adolf Hitler, which she accompanied by a false quote that linked the Nazi leader responsible for the Holocaust with President Obama’s call for more gun violence prevention in the aftermath of a pre-Christmas massacre of 20 children and six school employees in Newtown, CT.
Debe Terhar posted this quote on Facebook, which was later proven to be false: “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.”
Terhar’s mea culpa
For her mea culpa, Debe Terhar, a Republican from Cincinnati who was recently elected by the 19-member school board to a second term as its president and whose rise to this position was achieved with the full consent of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, sent an email explaining her decision.
“Again, I truly regret not using better judgment with the posting on my personal Facebook page. “The last thing I would ever want to do is embarrass the State Board of Education or compromise the important work we are doing.” Board members were encouraged to contact her with any concerns.
Ms. Terhar also attached a statement, saying, “I regret the consequences of carelessly sharing that picture and I will be more selective in my use of social media in the future.” She claims she thought her Facebook page was private.
Cleveland Anti-Defamation League Board Chairman Martin H. Belsky and Nina Sundell, ADL Regional Director took Ms. Terhar to task for her judgment and historical accuracy. “While one can disagree with the Obama Administration’s position on gun control, comparisons of his proposals to Hitler’s trivialize the memory of the six million Jews and the millions of other who perished in the Holocaust and are deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors,” they wrote.
Mr. Belsky and Ms. Sundell added, “Clearly Ms. Terhar needs an education about the history of the Holocaust. As a public figure she should know better. We hope that Ms. Terhar will retract the comparison and apologize. She should make clear that Holocaust comparisons are inappropriate and a terrible distortion of the history of World War II.”
Kasich tolerates intolerance
There are reports that Ms. Terhar apologized to Governor Kasich, who’s telling his version of Ohio’s economic recovery from the Great Recession at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this week. Gov. Kasich told one news source that since Ms. Terhar has admitted her Facebook post about Adolf Hitler and gun control was “a mistake,” no further action is needed.
“It was clearly a mistake, and she says it was a mistake,” Gov. Kasich told a reporter from Columbus who is shadowing him in Davos, Switzerland, site of the WEF. “I’m glad that she’s come out and said she’s sorry about it, that it’s a mistake, and she’s not going to do it again.”
Ohio Dems pounce
Ohio Democrats sought to capitalize on the political dust-up. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said, “While there is always room for respectful differences in opinions, State School Board President Terhar’s Facebook posting crossed a clear line by connecting the President’s national discussion on guns to Adolf Hitler. President Terhar’s invocation of Hitler is dangerous and should not be tolerated by Governor Kasich and the rest of the State School Board.”
On the hunt for Mr. Kasich, since he’s running for a second term in two years, Redfern reminded the governor that he’s called for more civility in the political debate. In a statement, Redfern said Gov. Kasich “has a prime opportunity to backup his words with action, adding that in the absence of a full, formal apology from Terhar, “Kasich has a duty to remove his hand-picked State School Board President from office. Under no circumstances is it permissible for Governor Kasich to look the other way while members of his Administration use dangerous, inflammatory rhetoric and images to further their political ideology.”
Blade sharpens call for Terhar to resign
The Toledo Blade has emerged as the first Ohio newspaper to call for Ms. Terhar to resign. “State Board of Education President Debe Terhar apparently doesn’t have the decency or good sense to resign. So it falls to Gov. John Kasich to make that happen,” the Blade editorial said, adding, “Nothing Ms. Terhar could do to improve the education of Ohio’s children as president, or even a member, of the state board can offset or undo the damage she has done by setting an appalling example of intolerance and ignorance.”
Reports say that more than 100,000 letters have been sent to Governor Kasich and the State School Board asking them to demand President Debe Terhar’s resignation.
Romney’s record of tolerating intolerance
Some might say that Gov. Kasich’s seeming tolerance for intolerance against President Obama is a reflection of Mitt Romney’s failure to push back or correct Republicans who spoke out in public during the campaign season. For example, last May in Euclid, Ohio, near Cleveland, a woman speaking at a Romney rally said that President Obama was operating outside of the Constitution and “should be tried for treason.” Many in the crowd applauded her, but unlike John McCain in 2008 who corrected a woman who thought the president an “Arab,” Romney let her declaration go unchallenged. When reporters pressed Mr. Romney afterward, he reluctantly said the president should be put on trial for being a traitor to his country.
Mitt Romney, who lost last year’s race for president and whose political career in national Republican politics has by all estimates come to an end, showed his tolerance for intolerance time and time again. Romney made little effort to defend Richard Grenell, one of his aides, who had been hired only weeks before to serve as a foreign policy spokesman. Conservative groups, reports said, complained loudly because Grenell is openly gay. When Romney declined to push back publicly against the conservatives, Grenell resigned.
Likewise, months earlier, when national Republican megaphone Rush Limbaugh claimed that a Georgetown University student who testified about birth control was a “slut” and a “prostitute,” Romney remained silent.
In reports on the GOP primary debates, Mr. Romney made little effort to distance himself from unbecoming behavior by the debate audiences, which applauded the record number of executions in Texas, cheered when a debate moderator spoke about a hypothetical 30-year-old dying because he lacked health insurance and booed when a gay service member asked a question about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
The former Massachusetts governor who lost the Bay State by more than 20 percentage points, did little to distance himself from episodes of blatant racism, intolerance and abject lies floated by surrogates and radicals during his campaign.
Romney was silent when John Sununu, his neoconservative advisor called President Obama “lazy” and “not too bright.” John Sununu, Bush’s former chief of staff, belittled Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama as supporting the same race.
When another Romney support, New York real estate developer and TV showman Donald Trump, made repeated attempts to portray President Obama as someone who wasn’t an American citizen, Romney refused to take him on while simultaneously accepting their generous campaign contributions.
Also recall that no other president in history has been called a “liar,” as happened when South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson did during President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address.
Gov. Kasich, whose close election in 2010 was aided in part by closely aligning himself with the spirit and goals of the Tea Party movement, has 2014 in his sites and may not want to poke the hornet’s nest of his far-right base by going after a public official who clearly reflects their thinking and sentiments on President Obama being foreign, illegitimate or un-American.
Democrats will no doubt want to make connections between Gov. Kasich and Mitt Romney as they search for a suitable challenger and marshal their forces and money to try to upset a governor who is prone to gaffes but who refuses to push people out of office with the same ferocity he’s shown to get them into office.
“For the good of the state, Ms. Terhar must step down. If she does not do so voluntarily, Mr. Kasich should make it happen. Her litany of excuses only confirms that she is ill-equipped to lead Ohio’s efforts to educate its children,” The Blade’s editorial said.
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