Influential Ohio Republican leader Dave Johnson is facing backlash over an insensitive post he shared on Facebook about the California wildfires this weekend. While the fires have destroyed over 10,000 homes and 1 million acres of land, the Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman believed the destruction to be a punishment from God to a "liberal California."
In a since-deleted Facebook post, the chairman shared an image of a Californian valley in flames with text overlay that read "Hell on Earth, brought to you by the Liberals in California!" Another image detailed a highway in flames with a road sign that reads "Welcome to Hell!" and "God's punishment to Liberal California."
In a statement to the Cleveland Local News, Johnson explained that he meant no harm by the post and only intended the "meme" to reflect how he felt about liberals.
"Look, that’s a meme," Johnson said. "And it’s how I feel about liberals, but did I mean that God is going to punish everyone who lives in California? No. It’s a figure of speech, and I probably shouldn’t have done it. But I did, and it doesn’t change how I feel about what’s happened in California ... If it offended anyone that had a loss of life, then I’m sorry. That was not my intent, and anybody who knows me knows better.”
Not everyone was so forgiving, including his party, the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee, and another influential political figure in the state, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras.
“Johnson owes the victims, their families, and the heroes who fought the fire and participated in rescue efforts an apology,” Betras wrote in a statement on Facebook. "If he won’t resign, those who have the power to remove him from those posts should do so at once. It is also important to note that along with being disturbed, Johnson is a coward. Shortly after people began posting negative comments about his disgusting comments ... Johnson removed the post from his Facebook page. Unfortunately for him, screenshots of his vile post went viral. He won’t be able to escape responsibility for what he said."
According to the Cleveland Local News, Johnson's family and business have received inappropriate messages in the wake of his post's deletion. He says the backlash is a result of the Democrats getting "their butts kicked" in the recent midterm elections and expects the threats to die down soon.