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N.H. lawmaker formally admonished for posting an anti-Semitic image to social media

New Hampshire’s Legislative Ethics Committee has admonished a Republican House member for sharing an anti-Semitic drawing on social media.

Republican State Rep. James Spillane, who represents Deerfield, apologized in writing for sharing the image on the conservative social media platform, Parler.

“I sincerely apologize for the echoing of a meme with an image that turned out to be deeply offensive,” Spillane wrote to the committee in a letter reprinted in the House Calendar on Friday.

“I am embarrassed that my failure to ascertain the hateful source of that image that resulted in offending and hurting so many others, especially those of the Jewish faith,” Spillane said.

The drawing in question was a partial copy of a controversial street mural painted in London in 2012. The mural was removed after public complaint.

According to the ethics committee's report, “The mural depicts several men around what looks similar to a Monopoly game board which is supported on the bare backs of other people who appear subservient.”

The image of the mural Spillane posted was captioned “IF WE ALL STAND UP, THEIR LITTLE GAME IS OVER.” Spillane added a comment to the post, “Agree. Truth.”

Seven Democratic state lawmakers, all of whom are Jewish, complained to the committee about Spillane’s posting in January, which was brought to their attention by a third party, as “personally offensive as it seemed similar to anti-Semitic propaganda.”

In the statement posted in the Legislative Calendar, Ethics Committee Chairman Ned Gordon, a Bristol Republican, wrote that Spillane’s posting of the image was “contrary to the Principles of Public Service which have been adopted by the legislature,” and that Spillane’s conduct “violated the Legislatures Policy Against Sexual and Other Unlawful Harassment and Discrimination.”

Gordon said the committee, which is tasked with reviewing complaints raised against lawmakers, had grounds to bring formal charges but that any outcome “would then become subject to the political process and its imposition would be at the discretion of the legislative body as a whole.”

A formal admonishment from the committee, Gordon said, would ensure a “suitable letter of apology” appeared in the House calendar, and “could provide the opportunity to educate members of the General Court and prevent similar incidents in the future.”

House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing of Hampton, who last year called for Spillane to resign over the matter, took to Twitter to endorse the committee’s action.

“Sends a clear message to all members that when you post something on social media that is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic or otherwise discriminatory that such actions violate the Principles of Public Service for all legislators.” Cushing wrote.

This incident isn’t the first time Spillane, who’s serving his fifth term in the House, has faced scrutiny over offensive social media posts. Last year, Spillane was investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General for a threatening Facebook post about Black Lives Matter.

Spillane said the post was intended as a joke.

In 2019, Spillane posted a gory image of a squirrel he said he shot to Twitter. He was responding to a post made by an animal rights activist.

New Hampshire Fish and Game investigated Spillane for killing the squirrel out of season. Then-House Speaker Steve Shurtleff stripped Spillane of his seat on the Fish and Game committee.

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Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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