Earlier this week, the Henrico County Democratic Committee took to Twitter to post a fundraising pitch that accused Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) of displaying a secret, conspiracy-laden “white power” hand gesture. The photo of Cox, taken in 2011, was placed side-by-side with a photo of the New Zealand mosque shooter in his court arraignment doing a similar “OK” hand signal, taken just days ago in 2019.
“We are not body language experts, but we do know that hands do not rest in that position. The Speaker of the House of Delegates should not make that same gesture that the New Zealand terrorist makes in his court appearance. Donate!” the post from the Henrico Democrats said.
The same post from the committee was also published on Facebook with a link to a donation page.
After widespread backlash, however, the post was removed.
In a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Matt Moran, the speaker’s chief of staff, said Cox was unaware there was any controversy surrounding the “OK” symbol until he was asked about the photo on Wednesday.
“The whole thing is ridiculous,” Moran said. “I guess the Henrico Democrats are desperate to talk about something other than the governor and attorney general admitting to wearing blackface, and we hope every serious Democrat in the state denounces this attack.”
WTVR reports that committee Chairwoman Lizzie Drucker-Basch released a statement after the social media posts had been removed.
“Henrico County Democrats has (sic) removed the post from Facebook and Twitter because we do not wish to put any elected official or candidate in an awkward position. However, we have not heard directly from Speaker Cox and would like that very much. This seems like a perfect opportunity for a leader to allay the fears that there is anything untoward going on in the photograph. It gives him the perfect opportunity to disavow white supremacy and the hate it represents.
The picture shown beside the Speaker’s simply showed the same gesture being made by someone who does believe the ideology of that symbol. It is a frightening time when this type of symbolism and hate are tearing at the fabric of our society.
Let’s be very clear, at no point did anyone connect the behaviors of Speaker Cox to the terrorist in New Zealand. Our committee was swift and clear on our feelings regarding the situation with Governor Northam and came out quickly in opposition. This is no different. We implore the Speaker to reach out to the community personally so that there can be no confusion.”
In a statement, the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) accused Democrats of trying to raise campaign funds off an “international tragedy,” condemning the group for “embrac[ing] divisive gutter politics.” RPV also pointed to photos showing Democratic politicians such as Hillary Clinton and former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama making similar hand gestures.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent anti-hate group, states that the idea of the “OK” gesture being a white supremacist signal began as a “hoax” on the website 4chan in early 2017. The ADL also says the gesture is “a nearly universal hand gesture and most usage of it is completely innocuous.”
In the age of “believe everything on the Internet,” the Henrico County Democratic Committee has shown their opposition to both truth and reality. Considering both photos were taken eight years apart, with no apparent connection between them, the committee was, regardless of their conjecture, attempting to spread confusion and fear and fundraise off tragedy.
The only thing that must be explained in this case is the use of a post hoc logical fallacy on part of the Democratic committee. Presumably, they may have never learned that correlation does not imply causation.