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SC GOP chairman calls on Jaime Harrison aides to resign over their old vulgar tweets

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S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick points to offensive tweets posted years ago by staffers for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison’s campaign as he called on them to resign at a news conference in Columbia on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

The chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party called on a pair of senior staffers working for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison's campaign to resign Friday after a series of vulgar, offensive social media posts they wrote years ago resurfaced this week.

He also condemned Harrison for liking a tweet from a supporter last month that referred to his Republican opponent, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, as "Lady G" — a derogatory nickname that stems from unsubstantiated allegations by a porn star earlier this year that Graham has hired male escorts.

"Jaime Harrison is adding fuel to the fire on a vicious, explicit internet conspiracy theory begun by a porn star Twitter troll," said S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick, accusing Harrison of "implicitly condoning this sort of slander and degrading, inexcusable comments."

The tweets from Harrison's staffers, which were posted between 2010 and 2014 by his political director Bre Maxwell and communications director Guy King, included anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic comments. 

"We're calling on today to correct your evidence pattern of enabling derogatory, hateful comments from the people who work with you and for you," McKissick wrote in a letter to Harrison. "It's time to own up to your mistakes — it's time to do the right thing. Restore decency to your campaign."

In a statement, Harrison campaign manager Zack Carroll said the "inappropriate tweets are inconsistent with the values of our campaign and violate our employee policies." King and Maxwell apologized when the tweets reemerged, and Carroll said "the matter is being handled internally." They are not resigning.

"This campaign isn't about staff tweets from years ago, it’s about the issues of today," Carroll said. "This race should be focused on how to get help to South Carolinians who are struggling to make rent, at risk of losing their health insurance, and getting their children safely back in schools during the worst pandemic in the last century."

Maxwell's tweets included one that disputed whether something was "ghetto" because "ghetto is a Jewish term and the jewish Americans are wealthy." In another, she praised a speech by Louis Farrakhan, the head of a group called the Nation of Islam, who has an extensive history of anti-Semitic and anti-White comments.

King's tweets included apparent jokes about rape and multiple derogatory comments about women in graphic terms.

Some of King's tweets were quotes from song lyrics or television shows. They were sent when King was in high school and college. But S.C. GOP communications director Claire Robinson argued neither of those are sufficient excuses for sharing them.

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"Rape is not funny," Robinson said. "There's no qualifier in that sentence."

The Washington Free Beacon first reported on Maxwell and King's tweets earlier this week.

Harrison said he rejects his staffers' "reprehensible comments" and has addressed it personally with them.

"That language has no place in our state," Harrison said. "Although these tweets are many years old, inexperience is no excuse for such inappropriate language, and I have addressed this personally with these individuals and my entire team."

Asked if the staff tweets could be viewed as a distraction from more pressing issues facing South Carolina voters, McKissick argued that they reflect on the candidate because he decided to hire them.

"When you're talking about any public office, but especially something at that level, issues of behavior, issues of hypocrisy and issues of quite frankly, poor judgement, are something that voters have a right to take into account," McKissick said. "And we're sure that they will."

S.C. Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson countered that Republicans have not stood up to President Donald Trump as he "spews hate, lies and division from the bully pulpit."

"It’s appalling that after more than 20 years in Congress, old tweets from staffers as youths is the top priority for the Lindsey Graham campaign," Robertson said. "Their actions reek of the desperation of an incumbent with no substance and a record he knows he cannot defend to the voters of South Carolina."

Polls in recent months have shown the race between Harrison and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to be much more competitive than most recent statewide races in South Carolina. The latest poll of likely voters in South Carolina out this week from Quinnipiac University found the two candidates tied.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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