Republicans on Wednesday brought their push to federal levels for Lamar County Democratic Party chair Gary O’Connor’s removal as local party leader following his April 30 Facebook post using a racial slur toward a Black Republican senator.
Freshman Republican Rep. Pat Fallon filed a U.S. House resolution condemning the entirety of the Texas Democratic Party “for refusing to denounce racism” a day after representatives of the Lamar County Democratic Party rejected O’Connor’s resignation as party leader. O’Connor submitted that resignation with a public apology after drawing national attention for his Facebook post criticizing Sen. Tim Scott’s rebuttal of President Joseph Biden’s joint address to Congress. In the post, O’Connor called Scott an “oreo” — used derogatorily to describe a Black person perceived to be “acting white.” Fallon called the local party’s decision “astounding.”
“Had a Republican chair made this remark, Democrats would be in the streets demanding his or her resignation. If the Democrats didn’t have double standards, they’d have no standards at all. They must be held accountable,” Fallon said.
Texas Republican Party chair Lt. Col. Allen West also called out the Texas Democratic Party, saying he was “sick and tired of the duplicitous hypocrisy of the true party of racism.” He said he would send a box of Oreos to the Texas Democratic Party until O’Connor resigned.
The Texas Democratic Party responded later Wednesday with a statement calling O’Connor’s use of the racial slur “a mistake for which O’Connor has profusely apologized and taken responsibility for, and which has sparked anti-racist self-examination, and serious commitment to doing better…” State party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said West “continues to show massive hypocrisy” after ignoring “years of hate, racism, and violent rhetoric by Donald Trump and other prominent members of his party — which have led to a nearly 20% increase in hate crimes across the country over the past four years — and has consistently refused to take action to address the serious issues facing Black Texans.”
Fallon was the first high profile Republican to call for O’Connor’s resignation, calling O’Connor’s post “abhorrent, insulting and unforgivable.”
“Both he and the entire Lamar County Democratic Party should be ashamed of this racist behavior. O’Connor must apologize and step down immediately. Additionally, I call on both the Democratic Party of Texas and the NAACP to condemn these words, and the state party should take swift action to censure him. This kind of behavior is not tolerable in Texas, the United States, or any political party,” Fallon said.
Gov. Greg Abbott also called for O’Connor to step down, taking to Twitter on Saturday.
“This is disgusting, hateful, and completely unacceptable. O’Connor must apologize to @SenatorTimScott & step down immediately. @texasdemocrats censure him,” he tweeted.
Initially, O’Connor defended his social media post, saying “oreo” was a frequently used word during his time in college. Later on April 30, he deleted the post entirely.
O’Connor issued his apology Tuesday afternoon, saying: “To Sen. Tim Scott, the residents of Lamar County, especially our Black residents, and to my family and friends, I profoundly apologize for the racially insensitive remark I made towards Sen. Scott last week. I was wrong and I apologize.”
O’Connor confirmed he submitted his resignation as local party chair, but representatives of the local party rejected it. In a statement, the representatives said they reflected on the incident, and after much discussion, opted against accepting the resignation.
“Mr. O’Connor has written a public letter of apology to Sen. Tim Scott, and Lamar County Democrats join him in this apology. Gary O’Connor has led Lamar County Democrats for seven years and his life of service, collaboration and activism for racial justice is well known throughout this community. His recent remark is incompatible with his core values,” they said in the statement.
“Lamar County Democrats recommit ourselves to conduct our private conversations and our public social media discussions with anti-racist, pro-reconciling attitudes and language. We strongly condemn bigotry of any kind and will continue our historic efforts to work for justice and equality for all our fellow citizens.”
Fallon’s resolution was co-sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Roger Williams, and Rep. Randy Weber.