LAPORTE — LaPorte Police Chief Tom Owens said an error is to blame for a Wednesday morning post on his personal Facebook page that triggered accusations against him of racism and bias, as well as calls for his resignation.
The shared post in question contained a photograph of a young woman handling a firearm along with the caption, “Here is your precious Muslim congresswoman at a Al’ Qaida training camp in Somalia. She is trying to get this picture blocked and me banned for posting it. Facebook has banned me twice because pic is considered offensive?”
The post is believed to be referring to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, according to online reports. It reportedly has been debunked as not a photo of Omar, but of a U.S.-backed Somali soldier from 1978, four years before Omar was born.
When questioned about the post Wednesday, Owens said he had written a caption that did not appear that read, “Really people, this is to(o) far and not fair.”
“Anybody that knows me, knows that I am not that way,” he said.
Owens said he was attempting to draw attention to the proliferation of what he called “fake news” from both sides of the political spectrum.
He apologized for the misunderstanding and replaced the post with an explanation of the error. That second post was later removed.
But not everyone on Facebook was buying the explanation, and it fueled a debate.
“Sure, I share a bunch of right wing memes, but I was sharing this particular one to condemn it,” one comment read.
Another commenter wrote, “Stop lying, you messed up and now it’s time to face the consequences.”
Another commenter said, “I don’t know what was even posted, but he did say it came across wrong. Have you never posted anything that had a mistake on it. I do it all the time. A perfect example is he spelled two words wrong in this post alone. Give the man a break.”
“Might be time to lock down your personal FB page to friends and family only,” another Facebook user wrote. “Just because you are a public servant doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to some privacy and be able to communicate with friends and family without being under the scrutiny of pot stirrers.”
The original post attracted mostly opposition.
“REALLY? I’m glad that I’m not a Muslim in LaPorte County, as clearly the Captains are ready to believe the worst about them,” one person wrote.
LaPorte Mayor Mark Krentz, who appointed Owens as chief nearly two years ago, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.