Backlash over Facebook post haunts sheriff
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.”