Ethics panel admonishes state rep for 'offensive' cartoon

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Sep. 30—CONCORD — The Legislative Ethics Committee formally admonished a four-term Republican House member for sharing a cartoon on social media the panel found to be "disturbing" and "offensive" to those of the Jewish faith.

As part of the committee's settlement of a complaint, State Rep. James Spillane, R-Deerfield, apologized in writing for sharing on a conservative social media platform the cartoon, which featured an anti-semitic image and adding the words, "Agree. Truth."

"I sincerely apologize for the echoing of a meme with an image that turned out to be deeply offensive, and I acknowledge that taking that action in my name as a state representative without having conducted thorough research to determine the source of that image was an unfortunate lapse in my normal due diligence," Spillane wrote.

"I am embarrassed that my failure to ascertain the hateful source of that image that resulted in offending and hurting so many others, especially those of the Jewish faith."

Spillane said he thought the cartoon, which came from part of a circa-2012 mural in London, had depicted government bureaucrats imposing COVID-19 shutdowns on private businesses.

The committee's Sept. 13 decision was published in the latest version of the House Calendar that was posted online Thursday afternoon.

A group of seven Jewish House members brought the complaint against Spillane last January with many calling for him to be removed from office.

Ethics Committee Chairman and Rep. Ned Gordon, R-Bristol, said one member lodging the complaint wanted the punishment to serve as a cautionary tale and teaching moment for legislators who post insensitive comments online.

Gordon said the panel decided to issue this admonishment, rather than bring formal charges against Spillane that would have to be adopted by the full House.

"It would serve as a public rebuke for Representative Spillane and would serve as a warning to other legislators that the use of social media has consequences and it must be used responsibly," Gordon wrote.

House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing of Hampton praised the committee's action.

"Sends a clear message to all members that when you post something on social media that is racist, sexist, anti-semitic or otherwise discriminatory that such actions violate the Principles of Public Service for all legislators." Cushing posted on Twitter.

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