People have made some extreme statements about Donald Trump. He has been compared to Adolf Hitler. Opponents are already calling for his impeachment. Some said his election last week drove them to contemplate suicide. Others have publicly wished for his death.
But few have gone as far as Matt Harrigan, the former chief executive of the cybersecurity start-up PacketSled, who, in a series of Facebook posts on election night, said he wanted to assassinate the Republican businessman and soon-to-be U.S. president.
“I’m going to kill the President Elect,” he wrote. “Bring it secret service.”
“You just need to get high,” one commenter told him.
“Nope,” Harrigan responded. “Getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the whitehouse that suits you motherf—-r. I’ll find you.”
Harrigan’s posts were private, visible to his Facebook friends only, but by the end of the week, images of the posts started showing up on social media. On Sunday, the rant went viral, drawing thousands of angry replies on Twitter and Reddit.
Now Harrigan is apologizing for the threats, calling them a “bad joke” that went too far. On Tuesday, he resigned as the head of PacketSled one day after being placed on administrative leave from the Del Mar, Calif.-based company he founded in 2013.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Harrigan, 42, said he published the remarks thinking that only his friends would see them and expecting no one would take him seriously.
“I said some things that I’m deeply regretful for, and I would apologize to anybody, including the president-elect,” Harrigan said. “If I could take it all back, I absolutely would, because of course I don’t mean any of those things. They’re absurd.”
“It was intended to be funny, but it was a very bad joke in very poor taste,” he said.
But the damage was done. After the posts began circulating online, people called for Harrigan’s arrest, accused him of trying to orchestrate Trump’s murder and urged a boycott of PacketSled. Harrigan said he has received death threats in recent days, and some users have shared his address and pictures of his home. He said he has had to move his wife and two children elsewhere.
Apologies he tweeted out Sunday only seemed to draw more outrage.
The board of PacketSled tried to distance itself from Harrigan, saying Monday that it had placed him on administrative leave and reported the posts to the Secret Service. On Tuesday, the board accepted his resignation in what Harrigan called a mutual decision.
“We want to be very clear, PacketSled does not condone the comments made by Mr. Harrigan, which do not reflect the views or opinions of the company, its employees, investors or partners,” the company said in a statement.
Harrigan told The Post he had been drinking and was intoxicated when he posted the remarks. Days later, when they went viral, he knew it was only a matter of time before authorities contacted him, he said.
On Monday, he said, two agents came to his house.
“I invited them into my home, and I sat down and said, ‘You’re free to look around and go through anything you want,” Harrigan told The Post. “They asked all the questions you would expect them to ask. I answered those in complete honesty.”
Harrigan has not been arrested or charged with a crime. A Secret Service agent told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the agency was aware of Harrigan’s posts but did not elaborate.
Threatening a president or president-elect is a Class E felony punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. Just last week, an Oregon man pleaded guilty to making threats on Facebook and Twitter to kill President Obama and shoot FBI agents. In another case, a man making menacing and racially charged threats on message boards against then-candidate Obama had his conviction overturned, with a court finding they did not constitute a “true threat.”
Harrigan said he is not sure what will happen next.
“What I do know is that I’m deeply regretful for having made any commentary on the president-elect at all,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to harm him, and I hope he does a great job.”
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