Two recent photos posted by state Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) are being called insensitive and racist by some of his colleagues.
One photo depicts a popular meme format where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer metaphorically murders the state budget. The other photo shows LaFave posing with a thumbs up next to a mannequin with the words “Lost Hunter from Detroit” displayed around the figure’s neck.
State Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) circulated the images to colleagues and criticized LaFave and called on Democrats and Republicans to respond to his social media posts.
“Shame on him. Shame on the Republican Party. And for that matter, shame on all of us for not calling out racist actions,” said Johnson, who is African American.
Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), did not respond to a request to comment on LaFave’s posts.
This week, however, LaFave rejected Johnson’s rebuke.
“She’s just mad; wants to come up with something to complain about. She should probably start dropping some good public policy bills and do your job finding some reason to be upset for absolutely no good reason,” said LaFave, who is white.
LaFave has frequently taken shots at Democrats, particularly Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her administration’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes and Attorney General Dana Nessel, who is continuing investigations into Catholic clergy sexual abuse and MSU’s handling of the Larry Nassar scandal. LaFave has accused Nessel, who is Jewish, of being “anti-Catholic,” which she has rejected.
The liberal group Progress Michigan also criticized LaFave’s recent posts.
“Beau LaFave should leave the mean-spirited and divisive memes to the internet trolls,” said deputy director Sam Inglot. “Frankly, we’re not concerned why LaFave posted them and are more interested in hearing an apology from him for such divisive behavior. LaFave needs to stop embarrassing himself, his constituents and the office he holds with juvenile social media posts.”
The “hunter” photo is especially troubling considering the fact that Detroit is a majority African-American community and the Upper Peninsula is overwhelmingly white, Inglot added. “We have a problem with racism in this country and the connotation behind the image cannot be ignored given the racial makeup of Michigan’s largest city.”
Detroit is almost 80% African American, according to U.S. census data.
“They don’t have any specific allegations of problems,” responded LaFave on Wednesday. “Yeah, they’re just saying, ‘Well, he’s white, and he’s talking about Detroit, it’s like OK, well, we kind of need to give me more than that to be upset.’”
“Damn, it has nothing to do with the color of someone’s skin when you mention a city,” LaFave added.
Advance reporter Nick Manes contributed to this story.