DUNDALK — You know it’s election season and politics as usual when people are talking about Twitter.
State Senator Johnny Ray Salling, R-6, recently announced his candidacy for U.S. Congress, and not a week later has been accused of inflammatory rhetoric about a sitting Minnesota Congresswoman.
In late July, Sen. Salling’s Twitter page showed a post where he called U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) an “illegal.”
“Get rid of this illegal know!!!!! [sic],” a tweet from his account read.
After being questioned by The Baltimore Sun, Salling denied posting the tweet — sort of.
“I need to look into that,” Salling told The Sun. “Honestly and truly, I don’t recall that. I’m being honest with you. It might have been misplaced. I have tweeted one time, that’s the time I announced.”
When The Sun asked if someone was tweeting on the state senator’s behalf, the Congressional hopeful confusingly suggested he may have been hacked, and said other social media platforms he uses have been hacked in the past.
Salling said he has since deleted the inaccurate tweet (Rep. Omar is not an undocumented person), and has told local media that he doesn’t use social media to criticize others.
“That’s not me. I don’t react that way. I don’t tweet that way and I don’t do Facebook that way,” he said.
Salling also took to Twitter on August 26, saying that he wanted to get “the record straight,” and that he did not author the tweet in question.
“I’m getting the record straight; the 7/24 tweet was not from me. I believe in God & Country 1st,” Salling tweeted.
Salling, a local and Sparrows Point alum, now has more than a three month gap time between his recent tweets — in fact, there are no tweets or replies on his profile from April 21 to August 13.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, called for Salling to apologize for the tweet.
“Regardless of personal views and biases, elected officials have a responsibility to conduct themselves impartially and to demonstrate that they can model tolerance and inclusivity for all of their constituents,” said CAIR Director of Maryland Outreach Zainab Chaudry. “Senator Salling should apologize for his post or resign from public office.”
She said CAIR is also calling on the Maryland Republican Party to repudiate Salling’s comment.
Salling joins Tim Fazenbaker of Sparrows Point and Genevieve Morris in the Republican primary to challenge longtime Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger’s seat in the Second District.
“This type of divisive rhetoric is not good for our democracy or our country,” said Morris in a statement.
“We are a melting pot of cultures which is part of what makes our country great. While we should certainly ensure that everyone in our country is here legally, we also cannot forget that nearly all of us have descended from immigrants. No citizen or resident should be called illegal or told to go home, certainly not sitting members of congress. We must work to address real issues with our immigration system. We can and should expect that our elected representatives will focus on policy instead of social media rhetoric that only incites anger, violence, and extreme partisanship. I look forward to getting to work to address true issues that affect real people.”