Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson/file
Chalis Montgomery's campaign called on opponent Richard Dien Winfield today to denounce what it called "escalating and violent rhetoric" against Montgomery.
Both Winfield and Montgomery are running in the Democratic primary to take on District 10 Rep. Jody Hice (R-Greensboro).
Irami Osei-Frimpong, a Winfield supporter who is featured in some of his campaign materials, posted on Facebook Sunday that he would "kill their [white liberals'] Democrat."
The Montgomery campaign took this to be a threat and called on Winfield to denounce it.
“The national sickness of violent political speech—particularly against women—has unfortunately reached our city [Athens],” Montgomery spokeswoman Kimberly Davis said in a news release. “This issue is one that transcends this particular election and is reflective of where we are in terms of public discourse in this country. It’s about how we treat all women.”
In a statement provided to Flagpole, Winfield said that he asked Osei-Frimpong to change the language of the post—which he did—and that he would not tolerate "inflammatory speech."
Here is the full statement from the Montgomery campaign:
The Montgomery for Congress campaign calls on primary opponent Richard Winfield to denounce escalating and violent rhetoric against Chalis Montgomery.
This call follows a recent spate of social media attacks by a prominent supporter featured in Winfield’s campaign video.
In a political atmosphere where this type of rhetoric has generally come from the right, it is imperative that Democrats come together for our common good. The Montgomery campaign is committed to living out core democratic values, fighting for progressive policies, building coalitions and uniting against the GOP’s insular worldview.
"We are shocked by the Winfield campaign’s refusal to disavow these comments from one of their key supporters," said Athens native Kimberly Davis, communications director for Montgomery for Congress. "These statements and the dismissal of them by the Winfield campaign are the echoes of what we've seen from this presidential administration, and most Americans will find this rhetoric abhorrent. Ms. Montgomery is a strong candidate with bold ideas for moving beyond the status quo that has left most Americans behind."
Now, more than ever, as women across the globe stand up for themselves against harassment, assault and dangerous speech, Winfield—in not publicly standing against these comments—offers a tacit endorsement of them that is dangerously out of touch.
The people of the 10th District need a true leader who will stand up for everyone against hateful, racialized and—in this case—violent, genderized political rhetoric. The Montgomery campaign recognizes that so much is at stake in this election, but we should not let our differences devolve into threatening language—no matter the intent.
"The national sickness of violent political speech—particularly against women—has unfortunately reached our city,” Davis said. “This issue is one that transcends this particular election and is reflective of where we are in terms of public discourse in this country. It’s about how we treat all women."
And Winfield's statement:
We cannot tolerate inflammatory speech that threatens candidates, even if the message is not meant literally. Due to the proliferation of guns and armed groups invading our political space, and the recent shootings of Congressional representatives, we must be particularly vigilant to repudiate rhetoric that in any way invites violence against anyone entering the political arena.
I asked the author of the comments, who does not speak for our campaign, to retract them with an admission of his irresponsibility. He has retracted them and substituted different language that removes any reference, metaphorical or literal, to violence, but I would hope that future posts acknowledge how political power does not grow out of the barrel of a gun, but from free, unconstrained debate about the fundamental issues that we must address as a nation.
We need to stop making blanket claims about views and conduct of people classed by race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, and yet recognize the differences in opportunity that still afflict all members of historically oppressed groups.
Our political speech should conform to truth and encourage the pursuit of justice. That is what my campaign for a new social bill of rights is all about. It provides bold solutions for eliminating unemployment, poverty, and racial as well as gender disadvantage. Inflammatory comments are a distraction from the real issues. This is why I contacted the author directly to rectify the situation. Let’s turn back to combatting the injustices we face and move beyond rhetoric.