According to the Bee's main story, "Obama threat gets Turlock woman fired, reported to Secret Service", Turlock resident Denise Helms posted shortly after the president's re-election Tuesday the following statement on her Facebook page, "And another 4 years of the nigger. Maybe he will get assassinated this term..!!" One of her Facebook friends used Twitter to share Helms' post, which caught the attention of a Sacramento TV station. KTXL Channel 40 of Sacramento interviewed Helms, who explained "I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. … The assassination part is kind of harsh. I'm not saying like I would go do that or anything like that, by any means, but if it was to happen, I don't think I'd care one bit." But even though Helms removed the post, she was unapologetic, saying. “The assassination part is kind of harsh. I’m not saying I’d go do that or anything like that, by any means, but if it was to happen I don’t think I’d care one bit.” Helms also denied she was racist, even though she used the word "nigger". The Modesto Bee also reported that Helms was a Facebook fan of Romney/Ryan, although they also reported her as not being registered in the state to vote.
But the fallout was merely beginning to build. She started getting threats and told her employer about them on Wednesday November 7th, and when Turlock Cold Stone Creamery Store Director Chris Kegle arrived for work on Thursday November 8th, he was greeted by more than 20 angry voice mails about Helms. So Kegle fired Helms, even though she had made the Facebook post off the job. Kegle said that although Helms had never exhibited any racist behavior during the year she was employed at the store, he was personally disgusted by her post. “We made the decision because of her comments, but also the community feedback,” he said. “We are very into working with the community and doing community service. So when your community does not like you because of an employee, that’s bad. We have a business to run.” Store owner Duane Costa also issued his own statement, in which he even apologized to Obama. Cold Stone Creamery corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, AZ endorsed the termination.
A couple of free speech advocacy groups weighed in. Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said "She can say whatever she wants, within limits, but when people take extreme positions, there are bound to be repercussions. If she were working for a government agency, her dismissal because of those comments would certainly raise some First Amendment concerns. But a private company probably has a considerably more leeway. A private company has First Amendment rights of its own. If it has an employee who's taking a position that's deeply offensive to other employees and customers, it has a right to discipline her." But Scheer believes the company overreacted and an unpaid suspension would have been a better choice. And Rebecca Jeschke, digital media analyst for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, cautioned "You shouldn't let privacy settings on any social network give you a false sense of security. What computers do is make copies. If you see something on a screen, you can copy and send it to someone else. You can't unring the bell. Once it's online, it's done."
Naturally, the local NAACP had to get in on the act. Frank Johnson, president of the Modesto/Stanislaus chapter of the NAACP, took two other NAACP officials to the Cold Stone store for a classical Al Sharpton Moment. Johnson acknowledged that Helms has the right to say whatever she wants, but that she has to deal with the consequences. His bigger concern was the reference to assassination, explaining "That was mind-boggling that the hatred is so severe that it warrants the loss of life. His (Obama's) election was proper due process. You don't have to like it. That's our right to vote — when we win, we win; when we lose, we lose." But Johnson also said his reason for showing up at the store was to show his support for their actions.
And because Obama was mentioned, the Secret Service is now involved. Secret Service Agent Scott Gillingham in Sacramento says Helms’ post is being investigated with threats against the president having the potential to lead to a Class D felony charge if the threat is perceived as credible.
Public Reaction: As of this post, 375 comments have been appended to the original Modesto Bee story. Local reaction appears to be split; comments to Cold Stone's Facebook page are 50-50, with two people thanking them for firing Helms, and two others saying they'll never patronize the store again. Here's a particularly good comment posted to the Modesto Bee:
marcus2020 November 9th 10:00 P.M:
This is a story of profound stupidity...stupidity of the media. Someone's tastless comment on their personal Facebook page is hardly newsworthy, much less should it be on the front page. Well, there are millions of comments made online that are much more offensive than Helms'. Will the media begin reporting on the countless FB posts that some find offensive but continues to refuse us real news?
Oh, but she said the "N" word and used the word "assassinate". Never mind that Obama is racist since he treats people in the Middle East as if they are inferior to himself. Never mind that Obama is a lawless assassin who orders drone strikes that have murdered many innocent people--men, women and children--in violation of international humanitarian law.
Some folks don't mind that a real assassin occupies the White House, but they let hell break loose over a silly Facebook post. Some folks don't mind that Obama's NDAA gives him the authority to assassinate American citizens, in obvious contradiction to the Bill of Rights. But let us sheeple not dare express any outrage against this inept and out of control president on our Facebook pages.
And from other sources:
PeterM, Monroe, United States, 9/11/2012 15:45 (Daily Mail):
Wait a damned minute....every vine-swinging savage in the land can e-mail and tweet threats of rioting, looting, and assassination of Romney and the Secret Service sit on their stones.....yet this girl expresses her opinion and she is (a) fired and (b) hassled by the Secret Service? WHAT??? So she's not entitled to an opinion now?? (Which I'm thinking is shared by about 75 MILILION others????) Unreal! What country is this??????
Mark, Obetz, 9/11/2012 14:01 (Daily Mail):
Are the people complaining the same ones who posted threats about killing and rioting if Romney won? I can certainly see the business decision in firing her for the obnoxious statement, and that is their right. Secret Service investigation of a statement that something "maybe" will happen is ridiculous. It is not a threat, and only a dolt, such as a "Democrat", "Liberal", or "Progressive", could read it that way. I don't like Obama, I didn't vote for him, and I will work against his policies. That said, he is still "my president", and I would take a bullet for him. How many of these liberals would have said the same with Romney, or Bush?
Cajun, Red Stick, United States, 9/11/2012 10:46 (Daily Mail):
Where is that tolerance Democrats preach? Saying you think someone might be assassinated is not a threat. It is a simple statement of facts based on what has been going on in hate groups. Whoever reported her needs to head to 1970s East Germany.