WASHINGTON – A movie poster mockup depicting Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib as "The Jihad Squad" was shared on the Facebook page for a group of state Republican leaders last week before being taken down days later.
The meme shared by the Illinois Republican County Chairman's Association depicts Omar with pursed lips and a shotgun, while Pressley is seen pointing a pistol with a grin. Tlaib is shown screaming in anger and Ocasio-Cortez is at center in a slinky red dress that tapers down to a ball of flames.
"Political Jihad is their game. If you don't agree with their socialist ideology, you're racist," reads the satirical tagline about the four congresswomen, who are often referred "the Squad." The poster includes an image of the group's logo with its url beneath. The image is modified from the poster for the 2013 film "Gangster Squad."
Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Pearson shared the image on Twitter on Sunday afternoon. Hours later, the group's president, Mark Shaw, said it had been removed.
"A couple of days ago, an image which was not authorized by me was posted on the Facebook page of the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association (“RCCA”). I condemn this unauthorized posting and it has been deleted. I am sorry if anyone who saw the image was offended by the contents," Shaw said in a statement.
Shaw called the "unauthorized" post an "unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by these four socialist members of the United States House of Representatives."
"Republican opposition to their proposed 'Green New Deal', elimination of all private health insurance, open borders and anti-Semitic posturing has nothing to do with these Representative’s races or religion," he said.
Shaw said his group was conducting an internal review of its approval process for social media posts to make sure "that any content posted in the future represents the 'big-tent' nature of the Republican Party."
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Tim Schneider, the chairman of the Illinois Republican Party said in a statement that he condemns "evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement."
"Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation," Schneider said. "My intense disagreement with the socialist policies and anti-semitic language of these four congresswomen has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion."
Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib have been the target of verbal and Twitter attacks from President Donald Trump in the past week. His tweets telling the four women – all of them U.S. citizens and three of them born in the USA – to "go back" and fix their countries of origin before legislating in the U.S. led to a House resolution condemning the remarks as racist. And his rhetoric was seen as spurring a crowd to chant "send her back" when he tore into Omar at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday.
Michigan's Tlaib and Minnesota's Omar are the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez of New York is the youngest women ever elected Congress and a self-described democratic socialist. Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts.
Trump has denied his rhetoric intentionally played into old racist tropes about sending non-white Americans "back where they came from." He said he meant that, based on their criticisms, they "hate our country" and "If they don’t like it, let them leave."
As evidence of their lack of patriotism, Trump and other administration officials – including Vice President Mike Pence – have pointed to comments from Omar that were condemned as anti-Semitic and Ocasio-Cortez's comparison of migrant detention facilities to concentration camps. But they have also falsely attributed other comments to the congresswomen or taken remarks out of context.
Critics have also pointed out dissent is a normal part of political debate, that their criticism is about policy rather than country, and that Trump himself made similarly critical remarks about the U.S. during the Obama administration.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Jihad Squad': GOP group deletes AOC, Tlaib, Omar, Pressley post