UPDATE: Facebook Kerfuffle Between Dearborn Co. Political Parties
By Mike Perleberg
A screenshot of a private Facebook message sent by Dearborn County Republican Party chairman Jim Thatcher to a voter. Image provided.
Update published at 9:37 a.m.:
Dearborn County Republican Party chairman Jim Thatcher says the uproar from Democrats about his handling of the party’s Facebook page is “just politics.”
“There was never an intent to do what this has been spun into. There is nothing in the world that would indicate any kind of cyberbullying. It’s just been spun out of control by the Dems,” Thatcher tells Eagle Country 99.3 on Wednesday, adding he would never bully anybody.
Thatcher would not give the name of the individual to whom he sent a private message questioning his lifestyle.
“I wish that individual well. I don’t want to mention his name because I think there’s been enough said and he’s being used as a prop,” Thatcher said.
Thatcher defended his decision to ban a number of people commenting on the GOP page’s post about Congressman Luke Messer’s Facebook page. He said the blocks were not out of spite, but that anybody would have begun banning page visitors based on the content of the comments, which continued after he had warned them.
“We had one particular individual post that if we clicked on anything, that it would be sent to some kind of hack and then it would be posted on some kind of a Russian website. I thought it was so bizarre I actually thought his account had been hacked,” Thatcher explained.
Thatcher said he may consider un-banning some commenters from the Dearborn County Republican Party’s Facebook page is they can be respectful.
He reacted to Dearborn County Democratic Party chairwoman Tricia Gaustad’s statement about the social media dust up, saying she is doing her job.
Original story published at 8:46 a.m.:
(Dearborn County, Ind.) – Dearborn County Democrats want an apology after they say the leader of the Dearborn County Republican Party cyberbullied a constituent.
The incident involved comments made on a post on the Dearborn County Republican Party Facebook page about Republican U.S. Congressman Luke Messer’s visit to Lawrenceburg last week. On Sunday evening, the unnamed commenter, presumably a Democrat who attended the Messer event, expressed frustration with the congressman’s reaction to a question he had asked at the meet-and-greet.
In an email to tri-state area media, Dearborn County Democratic Party chairwoman Tricia Gaustad said Jim Thatcher, chairman of the Dearborn County Republican Party, replied to the comment by posting a picture of the citizen using a hookah. The image had been copied from the citizen’s own Facebook profile page.
“Mr. Thatcher, it is believed, intentionally chose a picture to discredit the constituent, implying that constituent’s ideas were not valid,” said Gaustad.
Gaustad provided a screenshot of a private message sent by Thatcher to the commenter, whose name was blacked out. In it, Thatcher questions the person’s lifestyle, free thinking, and “political energy”.
The online spat degraded into a flurry of accusatory comments on the Republican party’s page. Gaustad claims citizens responses to the “attack” resulted in comments being deleted and users being blocked.
Efforts to reach Thatcher on Wednesday morning were unsuccessful. Other party officials who had been reached directed inquiries to Thatcher.
Gaustad said the local Democratic party and the commenter have asked that an apology be issued by the Dearborn County Republican Party to the user messaged by Thatcher. They have also asked that Facebook users who were blocked from the Dearborn County Republican Party’s page be unblocked and allowed to engage in civil discourse.
“It is our sincere hope that we can put this matter to rest and get back to focusing on the issues that affect everyday Hoosiers. We hope that the constituent finally can receive the apology he deserves. In our nation, we value a diversity of ideas and we embrace spirited debate on issues and policies. Once resolved, our goal is to move forward in a collegial and civil manner to support the needs of those in Dearborn County,” Gaustad concluded.