LINCOLN — A Nebraska Democratic Party official has refused calls to resign her volunteer position after calling reactions to this week’s shooting of a high-ranking Republican member of Congress “so funny” on social media.
Chelsey Gentry-Tipton of Omaha said in statement that she will not resign as chairwoman of the party’s Black Caucus, saying her post was taken out of context by party officials.
The Nebraska party’s leadership asked Gentry-Tipton to step down Wednesday, several hours after she wrote, in a Facebook thread about the shooting at in Alexandria, Virginia, “Watching the congressman crying on live tv abt the trauma they experienced. Y is this so funny tho?”
Later, in the same thread, she stated, “The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot in the early morning incident at a Washington, D.C., area baseball field. Four others were shot or injured. The gunman was shot and later died.
Messages left Thursday with Gentry-Tipton seeking an interview were not immediately returned.
Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democrats, said the news media’s interest in what amounts to an internal party dispute was troubling and distracted from the more important issue of gun violence. Nonetheless, she confirmed that she and the party’s central committee were “deeply disappointed” in the comments.
“Anyone who commits violence against anyone is wrong,” Kleeb said Thursday. “Anyone who makes insensitive comments about gun violence is wrong. For me that’s the end of the story.”
In a separate Facebook post, Gentry-Tipton refused “at this point” to resign.
She also was critical of the way Kleeb handled the matter, indicating that the request to step down came without Kleeb first talking to her.
Gentry-Tipton went on to say that as a past victim of gun violence, she understands that the Washington shooting was “deeply troubling.”
“I don’t condone or find the humor in what happened,” she said.
But she followed that statement with four paragraphs addressed to Kleeb that described how gun violence, police violence, income inequality and workplace bigotry affect the black community, “in a way that you clearly don’t understand.”
“I believe that there are people in the party that benefit from taking my post out of context,” Gentry-Tipton wrote. “I don’t believe that you or anyone else is the arbiter of my words, voice or compassion for the black community.”
Kenny Zoeller, executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, said Thursday that there is nothing funny about the trauma experienced by those who witnessed the shooting or feared for their safety.
“That sort of acceptance of violence is furthering the divide in an already hyper-polarized political environment,” he added.
Vince Powers, former chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, condemned Gentry-Tipton’s original social media post, saying he found the comments to be “outrageous.” But he otherwise declined to comment on the party’s response to them.
Gentry-Tipton’s status as the leader of the Black Caucus rests with her or the caucus members who elected her. The party’s leadership cannot force her out, Kleeb said.
Kleeb decried the focus on the internal party matter when the nation is confronted with “kids who can’t go to school and people who can’t play baseball or go to work and be safe.” Elected officials must address the many issues that factor into gun violence without demonizing each other, she said.
To that end, Kleeb said she has invited her counterpart with the Nebraska Republican Party to organize a joint day of community service. Dan Welch, GOP chairman, said Thursday that he is open to such an effort.
“We need to start humanizing each other again,” Kleeb said.