OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma County official is facing some backlash following a controversial statement he posted on Facebook regarding the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
Larry Stein, the Oklahoma County deputy assessor, posted, “There hasn’t been this great of a racial divide in America since the 1805’s. Congrats to the thugs and animals in Ferguson.”
Stein has since removed the post, but says he has a right to say whatever he wants under the First Amendment.
However, not everyone agrees.
Comments directed toward his post show some are now questioning whether the post should cost him his job.
“Social media is 24 hours-a-day, wherever we go,” said Patrick Allmond, a social media expert.
Allmond said public officials may be protected by the First Amendment, but adds they should still be careful when it comes to their posts on social media.
Larry Stein declined our request for an interview.
He sent us a statement saying, in part, “I have removed my private personal thoughts, shared on a webpage, that proves some people have very thin skin and may try to bully those who speak things they don’t like to hear.”
Rep. Mike Shelton shared the post, saying he found Stein’s words hurtful.
After Shelton shared the post, it quickly spread and comments began pouring in on social media.
Some questioned Stein’s choice of words, while others called for his resignation.
Others said his words were only increasing “the divide,” saying there are people of all races involved in the riots.
“All of us have opinions about what’s going on, how people are reacting. I’m not sure any of us agree it’s okay to burn down your community. Again, when you’re a public official, name calling, you have to be really sensitive to. And so, you want to really pull back on that and temper your emotions, because that can have long lasting effects,” said Almond.
He says while First Amendment rights apply to us all, public officials have to realize their words will be criticized more often.
“There’s no ‘on the record,’ ‘off the record’ anymore when you’re on social media. You are always on the record,” said Allmond.
Stein’s full statement regarding his post is as follows:
“I have removed my private personal thoughts, shared on a webpage, that proves some people have very thin skin and may try to bully those who speak things they don’t like to hear. The First Amendment, the freedom of speech and religion, is for everyone. National radio talk show hosts and many others used the same word to reference the lawless, Ferguson rioters and law breakers. Great thinkers have written, ‘Without laws, men are just animals.’ This type of lawless behavior is terrible and the same term would apply to everyone who is lawlessly rioting and destroying personal property, it’s the lack of character, just as Dr. King warned. Lawlessness, rioting and mob rule are always wrong. If someone was offended by the use of the term, do they support the rioters actions and oppose the First Amendment? If someone wants to deny my Free Speech rights guaranteed in the constitution, that is appalling. When can we expect Dr. King’s dream to become a reality, judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin?”
NewsChannel 4 also requested an interview with Rep. Shelton.
However, he was unavailable due to the upcoming holiday.
We have been told the two men did have a conversation regarding the post. However, they would not discuss any details of that private conversation.