By Lee Chottiner
A now-deleted antisemitic post on the Bracken County Republican Party Facebook page once again had Louisville Jewish leaders angry assailing hatred of the Jews in county and state politics in Kentucky and the need for Jews and non-Jews alike to do more – much more – to stop it.
The post, which attacked the new director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach as a “Jewish anti-gun activist, also accused him of being part of the “Jewish junta [that] is getting stronger and stronger.”
The post went up Friday morning, July 15, according to news reports and was deleted shortly thereafter.
Dettelbach was recently confirmed by the Senate to head the ATF.
“I guess my question is, who is allowed to post on this Facebook page,” asked Sen. Karen Berg of Jefferson County. “Is it an open forum that anyone is allowed to post on? Because that’s sick.”
In a statement carried by the Courier Journal, Bracken County GOP Chair Karin Kirkendol said, “Earlier today, I was made aware of an inappropriate post on the Bracken County GOP Facebook page. That post does not represent the values of the Bracken County Republican Party. It was incredibly insensitive. We will investigate how this occurred and we commit to tighter oversight of our social media going forward.”
That wasn’t enough for Melanie Maron Pell, chief field operations officer for the AJC in Louisville.
“Thankfully, the post was quickly removed, and the party has committed to better oversight of its social media,” Pell said in a statement. “But perhaps they should also focus on rooting out those in the party who hold these offensive views.”
The next day Kirkendol told the CJ that the Facebook page had been “hacked” and said the party “would not and did not publish anything antisemitic – as some of our very own members have Jewish heritage.”
Sara Klein Wagner, president, and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, said she had left a message for Kirkendol on her voicemail, but had not heard back from her as of late Friday afternoon.
“We want to work together so we can help educate people why these conspiracy theories are frightening and dangerous,” Wagner said. “Our commonwealth can do better, it is everyone’s responsibility to put a to stop this; it’s not just the Jewish community that should stand up and say it’s wrong.”
The Bracken County incident is just the latest of numerous antisemitic tropes made in public at the local level and in the General Assembly.
In the last legislative session two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Walker Thomas of Hopkinsville, and Sen. Rick Girdler of Somerset, used the phrase “Jew them down” during a committee meeting; and a third, Rep. Danny Bentley of Russell, made bizarre statements about Jewish women’s sex lives during a House floor debate on abortion drugs. He also made false claims related to the Holocaust.
These statements reflect a deeper problem in the country, Berg said. Many people seem to want to be associated with hatred.
“There is a percentage of people in this country who want to hate publicly,” she said. “They want to show the public the degree of their hate to other people, other groups, anyone they see as different from themselves, and that has been allowed for the past several years in this country and it has been promoted in several ways.”
She added, “Our job is to say, not OK, not OK, not OK.”
(JTA contributed to this story.)