Democrats are criticizing U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan and gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton for recent comments about the Women's March on Washington and the #MeToo movement opposing sexual harassment.
Duncan wrote a comment on his Facebook page Thursday morning that read: "I am worried about hate groups here at home. The antisemitism of the left's Women's March is very concerning! Very few liberals are willing to condemn them!"
His comment was in a thread involving a link that Duncan posted to an April 20 Daily Mail storyabout Palestinian protesters flying a swastika-emblazoned kite near the Israeli border.
Duncan, a Republican from Laurens, is seeking a fifth term representing a district that includes part of Greenville and all of Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties.
The campaign for Anderson Democrat Mary Geren, who is running against Duncan, issued a statement later Thursday calling for him to apologize.
“Today’s comment on social media from Jeff Duncan showcases, yet again, his lack of leadership, tact, and professionalism, not to mention his ignorance concerning the purpose of the Women’s March. Clearly, Duncan has made no effort to understand why millions of men, women, children, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents marched across the country and the world on January 21, 2017,” Geren said. "I seriously doubt he is even aware of the thousands of participants from his own district in South Carolina, including my daughter and me. How dare he even suggest we are anti-Semitic or a part of a ‘hate group.'
“His comments today show his consistent behavior of pandering to an extreme base of the far-right movement and his inability to effectively lead... The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. is not a hate group. It was the largest march on Washington in U.S. history and began the movement that is continuing to unfold before us, one that promotes equality and safety for women in the workplace, at school, home and in their communities."
Allen Klump, a spokesman for Duncan, sent an email to the Independent Mail that included links to three stories about ties between the march's organizers and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. His email also had a link to a story about organizers of the march tweeting a tribute to Asata Shakur, who fled to Cuba after being convicted of fatally shooting a New Jersey trooper in 1973.
"What's in the public record speaks for itself. Louis Farrakhan is a Muslim extremist and a racist. The refusal of the leadership of the Women's March to condemn him while praising cop killers should concern every American," Klump stated in a separate email. "This is the far left extreme of the Democratic Party."
Hours before Duncan's Facebook post, Democratic candidate for governor Rep. James Smith criticized Templeton for remarks she made about the #MeToo movement during a televised debate in Charleston on Wednesday night.
“I don’t want to sound insensitive at all, and I run that danger, but if you are uncomfortable, report it," Templeton said during the debate. “This #MeToo movement seems to have turned into this dramatic liberal viral deal that 30 years later something happened to you and now you’re talking about it because its popular.”
In a statement issued by his campaign, Smith said he was "particularly appalled" by Templeton's comments.
"Women who come forward with allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment in the workplace deserve to be heard and supported, not used as part of a partisan attack," Smith said. "Rather than dismissing these women, we need to work with them, support them and listen to them.”
Templeton's campaign manager, R.J. May, issued a statement Thursday afternoon responding to Smith.
“What’s appalling is liberal Democrat James Smith happily embracing Planned Parenthood’s support of his campaign, his insatiable appetite for more government spending, and his desire to strip the constitutional rights of law abiding gun owners," May said. "While he’s busy sending out press releases attacking Republicans, Catherine Templeton is taking her conservative message of using a buzzsaw on corrupt Columbia to South Carolinians.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, a pharmacist from Anderson who also is running for governor, offered a markedly different response than Templeton during Wednesday night's debate.
“I’ll tell you what we do in our pharmacy and what needs to be policy — it is not complicated: Keep your mouth shut and keep your hands to yourself," Bryant said. "I’ve thrown customers out of my drug store for saying things and doing things inappropriate to our employees."
Bryant also noted that he was the first elected official to call for the resignation of suspended Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis. Lewis has been indicted on charges of misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. The charges followed sexual assault and harassment allegations by Lewis' former assistant Savanah Nabors.
"Law enforcement is supposed to protect us from predators, and he was a predator himself," Bryant said during the debate. "The main thing we need to is to encourage these victims to come forward and applaud their courage.”