Henrico Democrats delete tweet juxtaposing photo of VA House Speaker to New Zealand terror suspect
RICHMOND, Va. –The office of Republican Virginia lawmaker and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox is responding to a since-deleted tweet and Facebook post comparing his pose in a photo taken more than 8 years ago to a photo of the New Zealand terror suspect who murdered 50 people at two mosques over the weekend.
In a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon, Henrico Democrats juxtaposed a photo of Cox alongside an image of the alleged terrorist making similar hand symbol during a court appearance.
The text of the post reads:
“We are not body language experts, but we do know that hands do not rest in that position. The Speaker of the House of Delegates should not make the same white power gesture that the New Zealand terrorist makes in his court appearance.”
The tweet then asked for donations.
Speaker Cox’s Chief of Staff Matt Moran said the photo was taken in either 2010 or 2011, and that Cox was unaware of the controversy around the hand gesture when asked about it.
The Anti-Defamation League reports that the symbol displayed by Cox did not become associated with far-right and white supremacy movements until a 4chan “hoax campaign” in 2017.
4chan, the anonymous internet discussion board credited with the incubation of meme culture, rick-rolling and the “alt-right,” was also the centerpiece of an internet hoax whereby users “flooded Twitter and other social media websites…claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy.”
According to the ADL, users also produced hashtags, fake emails and twitter accounts to bombard civil rights organizations, journalists and politicians with messages establishing the hoax.
“The “OK” hoax was actually just one in a series of hoaxes in which 4channers (and members of other, similar places on the Internet such as 8chan and Reddit) have tried to take innocuous items, symbols or gestures and falsely attribute white supremacist meanings to them in order to fool liberals and get them to spread such false messages,” the ADL writes in a blog post explaining the phenomenon.
“The whole thing is ridiculous. I guess the Henrico Democrats are desperate to talk about something other than the Governor and Attorney General admitting to wearing blackface, and we hope every serious Democrat the state denounces this attack,” Moran told CBS 6.
As of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evening, Chairwoman of the Henrico Democrats Lizzie Drucker-Basch said the social media posts had been removed.
“Henrico County Democrats has removed the post from Facebook and Twitter because we do not wish to put any elected official or candidate in an awkward position,” Drucker-Basch wrote in a statement to CBS 6.
“However, we have not heard directly from Speaker Cox and would like that very much. This seems like a perfect opportunity for a leader to allay the fears that there is anything untoward going on in the photograph. It gives him the perfect opportunity to disavow white supremacy and the hate it represents.
The picture shown beside the Speaker’s simply showed the same gesture being made by someone who does believe the ideology of that symbol. It is a frightening time when this type of symbolism and hate are tearing at the fabric of our society.
Let’s be very clear, at no point did anyone connect the behaviors of Speaker Cox to the terrorist in New Zealand.
Our committee was swift and clear on our feelings regarding the situation with Governor Northam and came out quickly in opposition. This is no different.
We implore the Speaker to reach out to the community personally so that there can be no confusion.”