Back­lash over Face­book post haunts sher­iff

The Phoenix - - LOCAL NEWS - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER » Events in Char­lottesville, Va., caught up with Ch­ester County Sher­iff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh over the week­end, lead­ing to a storm of crit­i­cism against her and some calls for her res­ig­na­tion from her of­fice.

On Satur­day, Welsh posted a photo on Face­book that fea­tured the lat­est ad­di­tion to her read­ing list: a copy of the New York Times’ best seller “The Big Lie: Ex­pos­ing the Nazi Roots of the Amer­i­can Left,” by the right-wing com­men­ta­tor Di­nesh D’Souza.

Welsh said she bought the book at Costco on the spur of the mo­ment, although she ad­mits to be­ing a fan of the au­thor’s work.

But as the day pro­gressed, it be­came clear to Welsh that her pub­li­ciz­ing of the pur­chase was not go­ing down well with her Face­book fol­low­ers. Harshly crit­i­cal com­ments were added to the post as it be­came clear that a rally in Vir­ginia to protest the planned re­moval of a Con­fed­er­ate statue had turned vi­o­lent and deadly.

Welsh said when she rec­og­nized what had hap­pened and the way her Face­book post was be­ing per­ceived, she­made the de­ci­sion to delete it.

“I did not en­dorse the book,” said Welsh in a phone con­ver­sa­tion be­tween ra­dio in­ter­views Wed­nes­day. “I did not rec­om­mend the book. I merely pur­chased the book. But after the day’s events un­folded on Satur­day into Satur­day night and the woman was killed, I felt it could be seen that this was in­sen­si­tive. So I re­moved it.”

Some who saw the post be­fore Welsh took it off Face­book were an­gered by what they per­ceived as sym­pa­thy to­ward the white su­prem­a­cists and neo-Nazis who made up the ral­ly­go­ers who clashed with counter-pro­test­ers in the streets of Char­lottesville.

Welsh said she has no sym­pa­thy for those ex­trem­ists, but ac­knowl­edged that it was bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

“I didn’t think it was that big of an is­sue,” she said of the book post. “I think it was the tim­ing. Peo­ple tied it to the events of Char­lottesville.”

Had she bought the book a week be­fore, she said, no one would have no­ticed her post.

Welsh said those who re­acted harshly to the post were “the same” as those who have crit­i­cized her in the past, mostly be­cause of her sup­port for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Calls for her to re­sign, she said, are taken with a grain of salt.

“These are peo­ple who are anti-Trump and who know I sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump,” she said, not­ing the back­lash that came her way when she voted for Trump in the Elec­toral College. “They are con­sis­tent in con­tin­u­ing to crit­i­cize me. It’s noth­ing new.”

Brian McGin­nis, the chair­man of the Ch­ester County Demo­cratic Com­mit­tee, was among those who felt Welsh’s ac­tions were prob­lem­atic.

“I feel it is com­pletely in­sen­si­tive,” he said Wed­nes­day. “Why would some­one want to post that when you have white su­prem­a­cists march­ing with torch es and chant­ing, ‘Blood and soil’ the day be­fore the rally? And then that poor woman died. I can’t jus­tify what she did. I can’t be­lieve some­one would think that this would be ac­cept­able.”

Welsh— who was elected to her fifth term as county sher­iff in 2015 with 59 per­cent of the vote — in­sisted that she would never sup­port the sort of pol­i­tics on dis­play in Cahrlottesville. “That needs to be said. I ab­so­lutely ab­hor the ex­trem­ists on both sides,” she said, echo­ing state­ments made by Trump after the ri­ots. “In no way would I ever sup­port neo-Nazis, white su­prem­a­cists, or the KKK.”

Carolyn Welsh

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