“POLITICAL JIHAD IS THEIR GAME,” reads all-caps text on the fake poster. “IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH THEIR SOCIALIST IDEOLOGY, YOU’RE RACIST.”
The meme, which reportedly first appeared Friday on the Facebook page of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association, has since drawn widespread backlash from top state leaders in both parties. On Sunday evening, the association’s president, Mark Shaw, apologized and announced that the post had been taken down. It is unclear if the poster was created by the organization, but its logo was featured on the image.
“A couple of days ago, an image which was not authorized by me was posted on the Facebook page of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association,” Shaw wrote in a statement. “I condemn this unauthorized posting and it has been deleted. I am sorry if anyone who saw the image was offended by the contents.”
The post, Shaw added, “is an unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by these four socialist members of the United States House of Representatives of which I strongly disagree.”
The poster marks yet another ugly broadside against the congresswomen following President Trump’s racist tweets last Sunday in which he suggested that the four women of color should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Pressley were born in the United States, and Omar, a Somali refugee, became a citizen when she was 17.
But rather than walk back the widely condemned comment, Trump has continued to publicly rebuke the freshman representatives, who have become collectively known as “the Squad” — and others have joined in. At a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, Trump supporters chanted, “Send her back,” at Omar, drawing such fierce backlash that the president falsely insisted that he tried to stop the crowd. The next day, a Louisiana police officer called Ocasio-Cortez “this vile idiot” in a Facebook post and suggested that she “needs a round....... and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” NOLA.com reported. The officer’s social media post was condemned by local officials, but they have not determined whether the words amounted to a credible violent threat, according to the outlet.
On Sunday, Trump again took aim at the women in a scathing tweet, lambasting them as “weak and insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!” Hours later, the president shared a video of Fox News host Jeanine Pirro railing against the lawmakers during her Saturday show. In the roughly six-minute segment, Pirro, a vocal critic of Omar, warned viewers about “a plot to remake America by those who hate America,” and added that “the Squad . . . represents a dangerous assault on everything we hold dear.”
In Illinois, however, the state’s top Republican leaders quickly agreed that “The Jihad Squad” meme went too far, joining their Democratic counterparts in denouncing it. The poster, which is based on the 2013 crime film “Gangster Squad,” featured unflattering images of the congresswomen. The “jihad” references were likely directed at Omar and Tlaib, who are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.
“I strongly condemn evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement,” Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, wrote in a statement. “Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation.”
He continued: “My intense disagreement with the socialist policies and anti-semitic language of these four congresswomen has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion. I urge everyone who also opposes them to keep the rhetoric focused on policy and political ideology.”
Sean M. Morrison, chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, which includes Chicago, said in a statement that he was “appalled” by the post’s “use of hateful rhetoric.”
“There are civil ways to express political differences that do not involve going to racist extremes,” Morrison said, adding that the country “should instead strive for an intelligent, civil and thoughtful discussion of the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats.”
On Facebook, the Cook County Democratic Party expressed its support for the congresswomen and accused the GOP group of sharing a post that “perpetuates the recent attacks by President Trump, promoting lies and racism to alienate immigrants, women, and people of color.”
Shaw, the RCCA president, explained Sunday that the organization “has a multi-stage, approval process” for posts on any of its social media pages. He noted that the association’s internal review process is now under “re-evaluation to insure that any content posted in the future represents the ‘big-tent’ nature of the Republican Party.”
The statement was met with mixed reactions as some praised the effort, but many critics who flooded the group’s Facebook page with comments on Sunday found that the apology fell short.
“Incredible non apology,” one person wrote. “You said the quiet part loud and are now backtracking.”
Another person called the apology “weak.”
“I remember when the Republican Party stood for decency, respect, family values and the ‘moral majority,'” the commenter said. “They sure have come down from that high ground to take the low road.”