By Dan Whitcomb
(Reuters) – A Louisiana policeman who suggested on Facebook that high-profile U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needed to be shot was fired on Monday, along with a second officer who “liked” his post.
Officers Charles Rispoli, a 14-year veteran of the Gretna Police Department who made the social media comment on Thursday, and Angelo Varisco, who “liked” it, were terminated following a swift internal investigation, Chief Arthur Lawson told a news conference.
“This incident we feel has been an embarrassment to our department. These officers acted in a manner which was unprofessional, alluding to a violent act to be conducted a sitting U.S. congresswoman,” Lawson said.
He said an internal investigation had found that both men were in violation of the police department’s social media policy, on which they had been trained. The department would consider further instruction on the issue for the rest of its employees, Lawson said.
The incident came just days after U.S. President Donald Trump touched off a furore by tweeting that Ocasio-Cortez and three of her colleagues in Congress, all women of colour, should “go back” where they came from if they were unhappy in the United States.
Three of the lawmakers – Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – were born in the United States. Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota came as a refugee from Somalia and is a naturalized citizen.
Rispoli, who was responding to post about Ocasio-Cortez by the satirical news website tatersgonnatate.com that suggested the Democratic lawmaker thought U.S. troops were overpaid, wrote: “She needs a round – and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve.”
Ocasio-Cortez worked as a waitress and bartender in New York City before stunning the political establishment by beating 10-term incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in the party’s primary for his seat in the 14th congressional district covering Queens and the Bronx.
Lawson said at the news conference that the police department in Gretna, a city of some 18,000 people just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, had been inundated with calls and messages over the incendiary Facebook post.
Gretna Mayor Wayne Rau told the New York Times he was “appalled” by the post, which he said did not represent the city or police department.
Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Republican Anthony Pappas to be become at 29 the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, has since become one of the highest-profile left-wing Democrats in Washington and a lightning-rod for criticism from conservatives.
The congresswoman, who is typically active on social media, did not appear to respond to Rispoli’s post or his termination on Monday. Representatives for Ocasio-Cortez at her offices in Washington and New York could not be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tom Brown)