Tommy Hunter is a Gwinnett County Commissioner in Lawrenceville, GA. More than a month ago, after Congressman John Lewis called Donald Trump an illegitimate President and announced he would not go to the inauguration, Tommy Hunter made a bad decision. He took to his personal Facebook page and called the congressman a “racist pig.”
The outrage was swift.
The commissioner deleted the post and subsequently apologized for his poor choice of words, admitting he had let his anger get the best of him.
That was more than a month ago. Since then, protestors organized by the local Democratic Party have shown up at every meeting of the Gwinnett County Commission seeking to force Hunter’s resignation. They have filed ethics complaints against him. They have consumed the public portion of the commission meetings to demand his ouster. Citizens who have business before the commission are having to wait hours to address the commission while protestor after protestor filibusters at the microphone to demand Hunter resign. He says he will not.
But now something more menacing is happening.
More than a month after the incident, after his apology, and after his appearance at an NAACP meeting to further apologize (a meeting disrupted by protestors), the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, is threatening Mr. Hunter’s employer.
The employer, United Consulting, has a long time business relationship with the City of Atlanta. Kasim Reed, the Mayor, wrote
“As Mayor, I am writing personally to let you know that the City of Atlanta finds Mr. Hunter’s toxic remark to be insulting, reprehensible and unacceptable to this administration…Please let me know by close of business Monday, February 27 how you plan to resolve this matter.”
Mr. Hunter has already apologized. He has gone to an NAACP meeting to apologize.
Must he now lose him job? Should his employer be punished for not firing him for making a political statement on his own time on his personal Facebook page?
This is a dangerous precedent to set as our public discourse coarsens and people become more and more tribal. The Mayor of Atlanta threatening a private employer, demanding that the employer discipline an employee to the Mayor’s satisfaction seems to me to be an abuse of power.
The Mayor has no complaints with the performance of the business. There has never been an issue with the relationship. To target one employee for public shaming is not just reckless, but it sets a dangerous precedent that others will follow. This comes, I should note, after the FBI raided Atlanta City Hall in an investigation over procurement contracts.
What happens when the Republican mayor of another city goes after Democrat employees of a city contractor who participated in the Women’s March? Where does the line end.
Should Tommy Hunter kill himself? Would that then satisfy Mayor Reed and the protestors? Must they have blood, or will just his scalp be acceptable? He apologized. He admitted he should not have done it. He deleted the post.
If we have moved to a point where we get to exact revenge on political opponents by destroying their livelihoods, we are going to see an escalation of violence and public discord. Mayor Reed is behaving irresponsibly in getting involved here.