A member of the Republican National Committee who has been criticized for making a series of anti-gay comments has apparently responded ahead of an upcoming national party meeting in D.C.
Dave Agema, who formerly served in the Michigan State House, issued the response via Facebook posting Sunday night, according to an individual with access to his news feed and an apparent screenshot of the message.
Saying he’s been on vacation for the past eight days, Agema said his intent with his previous messages — which have riled both gay Republicans and GOP leadership — was to “encourage discourse.”
“While I was gone it seems the same people are feeding half truths to the news within the GOP, stirring up divisiveness,” Agema apparently said. “I stand on the same issues I always have — God, family and country.”
Agema, who recently called Russia’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law “common sense” via Facebook, asserts he doesn’t necessarily align himself with the views expressed in items he posted.
“There are times I have posted or linked an article to encourage discourse,” Agema apparently said. “This does not constitute endorsement of that position, but some capture a controversial snippet and allege those are my words. It is an unfortunate and uncivil tactic meant to ruin a person’s reputation.”
Further, Agema apparently takes on the mantle of the victim, saying he’s faced retaliation for his remarks, including threats and vulgar messages.
“The Party platform is clear and the State Constitution is clear,” Agema looks to have said. “I have tried to uphold them but have been threatened, sent vulgar T-shirts, called nasty names at all times of night and day. I have never used name calling. Political correctness is taking the place of free speech via fear and intimidation.”
Agema concludes his posting by calling for “supporters and friends to turn the other cheek and not show the intolerance some of the opposition have shown.”
As seen in the screenshot, Agema made the posting visible to only his friends on Facebook, so the Blade is unable to independently view it to confirm its accuracy. Agema didn’t immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment to verify the posting.
Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, dismissed the notion that his postings merely fostered discourse, saying the RNC member “needs to look in the mirror.”
“His statements go far beyond polite debate about civil marriage equality; they’re outright bigotry,” Angelo said. “When GOP leadership across your state make a point of distancing themselves or explicitly denouncing you, it’s time to rethink your role in the party.”
Further, Angelo, who previously called for Agema’s ouster from the RNC, said it’s time for the Michigan Republican to relinquish his post.
“If Mr. Agema was truly as serious about getting conservatives elected as he professes, he would do the right thing and vacate his seat at the RNC,” Angelo said.
Dennis Lennox, a Republican precinct delegate in Grand Traverse County in Michigan, expressed his continued displeasure with Agema in an email on Monday sent to all 168 members of the Republican National Committee and obtained by the Washington Blade.
“Our party should be focused on defeating Democrats, not defending Republican candidates and incumbents from a toxic committeeman who has proved himself unfit for the duties and responsibilities entrusted to him as a member of the RNC,” Lennox said.
Controversy continues to brew over Agema just before the RNC is scheduled meet in D.C. between Thursday and Saturday. Lennox said the party should take the opportunity to act against Agema.
“I know many of you will be cautious to take action for a variety of reasons,” Lennox told RNC members. “However, the time is now for the RNC to repudiate and defrock Dave Agema by word or action. Staying silent will do nothing but help Democrats.”
Asked if he shares the view that the RNC should address Agema in some capacity at the upcoming meeting, Angelo said, “We called for Agema to resign; that demand still stands.”
Over the past year, Agema has reportedly made a series of anti-gay comments and postings on Facebook. In addition to calling Russia’s propaganda law “common sense,” he reportedly made a similar anti-gay posting when oral arguments were taking place on marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was titled, “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuals” and appeared under the byline Frank Joseph, M.D. According to the Detroit Free Press, it reportedly depicted gays as sexually promiscuous, rife with sexually transmitted diseases and responsible for “half the murders in large cities.”
Additionally, while expressing views in opposition to same-sex marriage at a Republican fundraiser, Agema reportedly said he’s seen gay people working for American Airlines falsely claim to have HIV-infected partners to obtain spousal health coverage. He was also the sponsor of a resolution approved in April by the RNC reaffirming the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
But Agema’s comments aren’t limited to anti-gay remarks. According to Mlive.com, Agema also posted an old online attack piece that questions whether Muslims have ever contributed positively to American society.
Republicans at both the state and local level have joined in the criticism against Agema, although no action has been taken against him despite repeated calls for him to step down.
In a statement provided to the Washington Blade on Monday, RNC Chair Reince Priebus repudiates Agema’s remarks, taking particular exception to the Michigan Republican’s comments about the Muslim community.
“While I have already commented on this issue before, people should be treated with grace and respect and these comments don’t reflect that principle,” Priebus said. “Additionally, the most recent comments regarding Muslim people living in America are patently wrong, lack merit and are devoid of any meaningful value. These comments don’t represent the Republican Party.”
In an interview with Detroit News, Betsy Devos, a former Republican National Committee member and former head of the Michigan Republican Party, said she’s personally called Agema to ask him to step down, and, when he didn’t respond to her messages, called on Preibus to dump Agema or marginalize him.
“He has a right to express his ideas and opinions, but he also has a responsibility to the party,” DeVos was quoted as saying. “He has damaged his position and his party. He reflects badly on Republicans and on Michigan.”
In his State of the State address last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder made a veiled criticism of Agema. Without mentioning the RNC member by name, Snyder said in the state of Michigan, people have made “derogatory” and “negative” comments and called for “a greater degree of civility and respect to others of different backgrounds and different views.”