Oklahoma County Official makes controversial Ferguson Facebook post

Public officials and employees – I’m begging you – stop this.

I think I’m at five Ferguson related social media screw-ups involving elected officials, political officers or anyone who is paid by the tax dollars, and here’s another one for you all to shake your heads at in disbelief.

Larry Stein is the Deputy Assessor for Oklahoma County in Oklahoma.  Last week, he went to Facebook and posted:

Larry Stein FB Post

As previously established, thugs is the new n-word, and comparing black people to animals has always been a racist code-word.

After much criticism, including by Oklahoma State Representative Mike Shelton (D), Stein removed the post and replaced it with this one:

Larry Stein defense

This first amendment argument drives me nuts for two reasons.  First, is Stein legally entitled to make sure a post?  Of course.  Can he be arrested for making such comments? Absolutely not – within certain limits pertaining to violence, threats and libel, people are entitled to say whatever they want.  But that’s not the point.  The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, but it does not guarantee freedom of consequence from that speech.  People have as much right to call for Stein’s job as he has to make those statements in the first place.

Secondly, public officials are held to higher standards.  If your salary is paid by the public, and if you are in the public employ, there are certain values which you simply must uphold. One of them is a belief in equality and your ability to perform the duties of your job in a non-discriminatory way.  If you makes statements that would compromise people’s faith in your ability to perform your job, you shouldn’t be surprised when people are calling for you to be fired.

What do you think – are people being too sensitive, or are they right to call for Stein’s firing?  Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for participating in the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s