Resignation of deputy mayor who compared illegal immigrants to raccoons met with applause

Tuesday , February 13, 2018 - 12:40 PM

Kristine Phillips

(c) 2018, The Washington Post.

Versions of this story have been circulating among conservative blogs since at least early 2016, before Donald Trump became the Republican presidential nominee.

It portrays Trump as an exterminator, and illegal immigrants as raccoons, pesky and rabid pests he’s sworn to banish from your home. Many see the story, by an unknown author, as both offensive and dehumanizing. And this past weekend, a New Jersey city official shared it to his Facebook page, hoping to make people understand the support for the president.

“Read below, it says it all,” Rick Blood wrote.

The deputy mayor of Mendham Township soon found himself facing an avalanche of complaints and a backlash strong enough to drive him out of his post.

A crowd of angry residents and advocates denounced Blood on Monday during a tense, hours-long town meeting that ended with an announcement of his resignation, news that the audience met with a round of applause. And that’s how Blood’s brief time as deputy mayor ended, with a “bad decision” he would love to make right.

It all began Sunday morning, when Blood said a friend had sent him “this raccoon story.” The plot: “Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons” have infested your basement while you were gone on a vacation. No one else could exterminate them, other than this man, who, despite his many faults, is the only person for the job.

The story then goes on to talk about Trump’s appeal:

“Here’s why we want Trump, yes he’s a bit of an ass, yes he’s an egomaniac, but we don’t care. The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced & gutless, and illegals are everywhere . . . We don’t care that Trump is crude, we don’t care that he insults people, we don’t care that he once was friendly with Hillary, we don’t care that he has changed positions, we don’t care that he’s been married 3 times, we don’t care that he fights with Megyn Kelly or Rosie O’Donnell, we don’t care that he doesn’t know the name of some Muslin [sic] terrorist,” according to Blood’s now-deleted post.

Blood ended with an encouragement to his Facebook friends to share the story.

“I feel this is why thousands of people who haven’t voted in 25 years are getting involved,” he wrote. “The raccoons have got to go.”

Blood deleted the post hours later after receiving complaints, he told N.J.com. In a follow-up Facebook post, which either has also been deleted or could not be viewed publicly, he apologized and said he only meant to explain, “however poorly,” why Trump was elected.

Blood declined to comment to The Washington Post Tuesday, but in an interview with NJ.com, he said he has nothing against immigrants, “from farmworkers to technology people,” who come to the country to work, and he does not believe that those who were brought to the United States illegally as children should be deported.

“My position is that immigration needs to be fixed,” he said, adding that he himself is a descendant of Irish immigrants who arrived on Ellis Island.

Critics, however, said the post, though not written in Blood’s own words, was inexcusable.

“I’m a first-generation American. My parents came here for a better life. When I saw that post yesterday, honestly . . .” Amalia Duarte, a township committee member, told Blood at the meeting. She paused for several seconds, shook her head and took a deep breath as she gathered her thoughts. The crowd applauded her.

“I’m not one to get emotional . . . But I was stunned, I really was stunned because I’d run into my fellow committeeman a lot on the campaign trail and had such a different impression,” said Duarte, who did not respond to an email requesting comment Tuesday.

Duarte, a Democrat, defeated Blood, a Republican, in a bid for a seat on the township committee last November. Blood was appointed to an open seat as deputy mayor. His term would have expired in December.

Karol Ruiz, a member of an immigration advocacy group in New Jersey, called Blood’s Facebook post a “dehumanizing hate speech.”

“Deputy Mayor Rick Blood compared undocumented immigrants to raccoons, a word eerily reminiscent of the racial slur, coon,” Ruiz said during the hearing. “Deputy Mayor Rick Blood’s post compared undocumented immigrants to vermin. He affirmed a desire for exterminators to get rid of the raccoons, in essence, calling for the extermination of undocumented immigrants.”

Vanessa Brown, a Mendham Township resident, said she does not believe the post was just a mistake.

“Let’s be honest here. You lost the public’s trust,” she told Blood during the hearing, NJ.com reported.

In response, Blood said he is “most heartily sorry” for posting the story.

“If it’s the wish of this board that I resign, I will - I will do it. But like I said, putting a lot of time and to throw it away on a bad decision that took 10 minutes that I would love to get back, and I’d be painted with that brush for quite a while,” he said. “So yeah, I’m sorry about it. It was insensitive at best, and it was cruel at worst.”

As he was talking, a woman asked him if he learned anything.

“I absolutely did,” he responded.

The township committee members, including Blood, then met behind closed doors. After the executive session, Mayor Richard Diegnan Jr. announced Blood’s resignation. As the committee adjourned, the crowd applauded.

Blood lingered for a while; a picture taken by local media shows him talking to some of the attendees.

But one local photographer captured a dramatic moment at the end of the night: A group of advocates was taking a group picture as they held signs that say, “STOP RACISM NOW” and “AMERICA’S GOT ROOM. IMMIGRANTS WELCOME.” On the opposite side was Blood, carrying his jacket and some papers, heading out the door.

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