LANSING, Mich. — As the Republican National Committee prepares for meetings in Washington this week, Gov. Rick Snyder and other party leaders in Michigan are criticizing committeeman Dave Agema for repeated anti-gay and anti-Muslim remarks.
The 64-year-old former state representative from western Michigan who serves on the Republican party’s national board.Snyder made a semi-veiled reference to Agema in Thursday’s State of the State speech.
“In recent days and recent months in the state of Michigan, we’ve had people make comments that were derogatory, that were negative towards other people,” Snyder said. “I’d like to make a call to all citizens of Michigan to ask us have a greater degree of civility and respect to others of different backgrounds and different views.”
Last March, Agema posted an article on Facebook claiming gays account for half of murders in large cities. In December, he told Berrien County Republicans that his experience as an American Airlines pilot made him familiar with efforts by gays to get health insurance coverage because of the ravages of AIDS.
Ex-Republican National Committeewoman Betsy DeVos told The Detroit News that Agema was hurting the party.
“Leaders have a responsibility to create an inclusive, welcoming party, not to exclude,” DeVos said. “What’s going on is cause for concern about our future prospects as a party and our ability to bring people around to our point of view and long-term agenda. We are driving people away who might otherwise support what we stand for.”
Democratic state Chairman Lon Johnson issued a statement Sunday criticizing GOP leaders for not going further.
“It’s time for Republicans to remove Agema from his post, and to finally embrace common sense equality and non-discrimination protections for everyone in Michigan,” Johnson said.
So far, Agema has been largely mum on the controversy. He didn’t respond to a message from The Associated Press sent through Facebook last week or through his website Sunday. Agema doesn’t have a listed telephone number, and the AP left a message Sunday at a Grandville number that had been listed for him.
Republican consultant Joe Munem of Warren said he takes personal offense because his father is a Muslim. But Americans generally are alienated by this kind of talk, he told the Detroit Free Press.
“We have a national committeeman who feels it’s his duty to handicap the entire party by running around and creating this kind of divisiveness,” Munem said. “This nonsense is taking the entire party off message.”
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