The group’s president says he regrets that the Facebook post was a “distraction” from discussions about the four “socialist” lawmakers.
By Alex Johnson, NBC News
A Republican political organization in Illinois semi-apologized on Sunday for posting and then deleting a movie-style poster on Facebook depicting four Democratic congresswomen who have been criticized by President Donald Trump as “The Jihad Squad.”
The poster, which was uploaded to the account of the Republican County Chairmen’s Association of Illinois, mimics promotional movie posters, this one called “The Jihad Squad.” The four Democratic congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — are often called “The Squad.”
The poster depicted them in action movie-style poses with the slogan “Political Jihad Is Their Game.” It depicted Pressley aiming a gun with a smile on her face.
In a followup Facebook post on Sunday night, the organization’s president, Mark Shaw, chairman of the Lake County Republican Central Committee, said that “an image which was not authorized by me was posted on the Facebook page of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association (‘RCCA’).”
Shaw didn’t apologize outright for the image, saying only that the poster was “unauthorized” and that “I am sorry if anyone who saw the image was offended by the contents.”
The statement went on to lament that the post was “an unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by these four socialist members of the United States House of Representatives of which I strongly disagree.”
The post came a few hours after Illinois Republicans joined a chorus of Democrats in denouncing the image.
In a statement on Sunday, Tim Schneider, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said: “I strongly condemn evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement.
“The recent social media post coming from the IRCCA does not reflect my values or the Illinois Republican Party’s values,” he said. “Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation.”
Sean Morrison, chairman of the Cook County Republican Party, said in a statement that he was “appalled” by the group’s “use of hateful rhetoric.”
“There are civil ways to express political differences that do not involve going to racist extremes,” Morrison said. “The Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association’s post only serves to further the hateful divide within our country, when we should instead strive for an intelligent, civil and thoughtful discussion of the philosophical differences between Republicans and Democrats.”
The quartet of Democratic freshmen have built unusually prominent profiles for newcomers to Congress, occasionally clashing with their own party’s leaders. But Democrats appear to have united behind the four in opposition to racist comments about them by the president.
On Sunday, Trump’s Twitter account posted: “I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!”
A week earlier, the account posted: “So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run.”
The account added that all four congresswomen should “go back” to their countries. All four are U.S. citizens, and all but Omar were born in the United States.
This article originally appeared on NBC News.