New Castle GOP chairman to resign over Facebook posts

DOVER — Two local Republican Party officials are under fire for offensive comments made on social media recently, with at least one planning to resign as a result.

As reported by a left-leaning Delaware political blog earlier this week, New Castle County Republican Party Chairman Chris Rowe used a word derogatory to gay people, while Sussex County Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Nelly Jordan made remarks many saw as anti-Semitic. Both comments were made as Facebook posts.

Thursday, state GOP Chairwoman Jane Brady released a statement on the matter:

“Neither I nor the Delaware Republican Party, which I represent, condone any statements that demean or show disrespect to others. I have requested Chris Rowe’s resignation and he has agreed to tender it. His comment was offensive and did not reflect the values of respect and tolerance held dear by the Delaware Republican Party. Ultimately, as a result, he lost the support of those he was to lead.

“Our Party includes individuals from all different backgrounds, joined together to advance the principles we hold dear. I am proud of Delaware Republicans and their support for the broad range of diversity that makes our Party stronger.”

M. Jane Brady

“The remarks made by Nelly Jordan, who was elected to her post by the Sussex County GOP Executive Committee, were offensive, hurtful and anti-Semitic. The process is different for Jordan because she was elected into her post and not appointed, unlike Rowe who was appointed to his position. Nelly will have to make a choice of either resigning or going through a process to seek her removal.”

The news initially came to light Tuesday, and it received greater prominence after Republican officials started publicly responding the next day.

Mr. Rowe’s comment appears to stem from an unsuccessful attempt to upload a video of a recent Texas church shooting (specifically a gunowner who shot the suspect) to his Facebook page. When the video failed to upload due to a violation of the site’s terms of service, he wrote “f—— cannot handle reality. Bad guy loses FB pisses themselves.”

After making his initial post, Mr. Rowe doubled down. In a posting from the New Castle County GOP’s Facebook page, he defended his remarks as “locker room talk between 2 men.”

“I have been using that word since before it ever meant what people are offended by today. In this context I used it for it’s impact & it was between close friends,” Mr. Rowe said.

He defended himself as someone who does not “have an ounce of bigotry” and has “been instrumental in bringing gay candidates into this upcoming election for the GOP.”

Being offended is a choice, he wrote, and individuals blaming others for their hurt feelings are “just being childish.”

Ms. Jordan, meanwhile, drew condemnation for unrelated posts about Jews being blinded by Democratic lies and going against the Lord’s will “as it was in the times of the Old Testament.”

“What amazes me the most in these theatrical Congress hearings, is to see how many Jews ‘In Name Only’ lend themselves to be in the hoaks of the pure made up story of Impeachment that the Democrats have woven as spiders catching flies and bugs,” she wrote on her page.

“These jews have been enrolled to come and testify, to come and interrogate and to be involved in anything that the Democrats enlist them to do to try to look credible to the people of this country.”

Many Republican leaders responded strongly. Sen. Ernie Lopez, who represents the Lewes area, in a statement called Ms. Jordan’s words “plainly hurtful, backward and mean spirited” and urged her to apologize and resign from the Sussex County GOP Executive Committee.

House Minority Leader Danny Short, of Seaford, and House Minority Whip Tim Dukes, of Laurel, in a joint statement said Ms. Jordan and Mr. Rowe should step down.

“Derogatory references to sexual orientation and religious affiliation should play no role in the civil discussion of public policy and our party’s political positions,” they said. “Nearly as troubling as the comments made by Mr. Rowe and Ms. Jordan is their disappointing response to the understandable anger they created. Neither has apologized for their thoughtless posts, with Mr. Rowe actually attempting to justify his remarks as locker room talk between two men.’

“The inept actions of Mr. Rowe and Ms. Jordan are unacceptable and do not represent the integrity Delaware Republicans have always strived to maintain. We call for both to immediately issue an apology and step down from their leadership roles. If they remain unwilling to do so, action should be taken to remove them from their posts.”

Neither Ms. Jordan nor the Sussex County GOP could not be reached for comment about her future plans Thursday.

The Delaware Democratic Party blasted the GOP’s initial response while seeking to tie the posts to the national party and the occupant of the White House.

“For three years while President Trump has spewed similarly vile and divisive rhetoric, they’ve been silent,” Chairman Erik Raser-Schramm said in a statement. “While white nationalists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller have been vital cogs in the President’s inner circle, they’ve been silent. When their own Republican colleague in the General Assembly went on an Islamophobic tirade from the floor of the Senate, they couldn’t muster a word.

“Perhaps it’s taken the arrival of an election year for the most vulnerable members of the Delaware GOP to get up the courage to break their silence. For the Delawareans who are tired of hearing they are lesser because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, or how they pray, that is far too late.”

The Facebook comments on the New Castle County GOP’s explanation mostly saw people criticize Mr. Rowe and back him up. For his part, Mr. Rowe argued the outrage over the comments is part of the reason Delaware has over the past few decades been a solid blue state.

“As we have witnessed for years, the Democrats would have each other’s back if they were guilty of a multitude of crimes, including capital crimes,” his post states. “I use a word in a locker room context calling out FaceBook and GOP Bladders go into full spasm mode from a Progressive Left Blog article.

“So, let’s continue to allow the Dems to control the narrative and lob hand grenades over the wall to keep us splintered. You know what they say, ‘You only catch Flak when you’re over the target.’”

The county GOP on Thursday posted it will be releasing a video over the weekend about Mr. Rowe’s “use of one certain word.” Less than two hours later, the state party announced he would step down.

Editor’s note: The below are statements added Friday, one day after this article was posted.

Sussex County Republican Party Chairman Don Petitmermet said:

“This past week, two incidents have come to light where Republican Party members in Delaware used words that were construed as offensive and hurtful. Because one of those was Mrs. Nelly Jordan, the Vice Chair of the Sussex County Republican Party, I find it necessary to comment.  

“First and foremost, the Sussex County Republican Party (SCRP) welcomes and respects all individuals regardless of color, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. This also holds true for of the Delaware State Republican Party and the National Party. We welcome members from all groups and there is no place for intolerance.    

“In today’s hyper-political environment words are often used without much thought as to their actual meaning. That said, we can and must do better.

“The actions of SCRP Vice-Chair Nelly Jordan are my concern and I take the situation very seriously. The SCRP has procedures for evaluating the conduct of our members and holding them accountable where required. The procedures have been used in the past and will be scrupulously adhered to in this case as well.  

As the official responsible for ensuring these procedures are conducted properly and fairly, it is not appropriate for me to comment publicly about the matter further.”

Friday, the Anti-Defamation League blasted the remarks.

“We forcefully condemn the hateful Facebook posts made by two Republican Party officials in Delaware,” Robin Burstein, the group’s senior associate regional director, said. “Anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT bigotry and all forms of hate are un-American, and have no place in our political parties.

“We applaud the Delaware Republican Party, the Delaware State House of Representatives Republican Caucus and individual Republican state lawmakers for showing courage and character in strongly rejecting this hateful sentiment, and for taking meaningful action to demonstrate that the Delaware GOP will not tolerate bigotry.”