A Democratic Party politician was forced to apologize after holding up a hammer-and-sickle image behind Delegate Lee Carter (it happens around :48 in video above), who was elected to the Virginia Statehouse as a Democratic Socialist last November.
The offending image was posted behind Carter by Delegate Mark Keam during a debate on legislation offering tax breaks to companies who invest in economically depressed areas.
Carter criticized the measure as a “good faith effort to help combat poverty,” but insisted that it relies on a “deeply flawed mechanism.” Carter continued, noting:
That mechanism of racing to the bottom of cutting and hacking and slashing away at our tax code to try to fight over scraps and handouts from billionaires rather than trying to build the economy from the ground up that will actually help the people that are already here…it may make the locality look richer on paper, it’ll look like you’ve done something about poverty…but you won’t have any poor people in those localities any more.
As Carter wrapped up his above-quoted criticism of the measure, Keam fiddled with a tablet and giggled to himself as he briefly flashed the Communist-associated imagery behind his colleague’s back. Keam is a former registered lobbyist for Verizon.
Keam almost immediately realized that his self-described joke crossed the line and took to the House floor to apologize soon thereafter. “He said, Even though sometimes we get overboard by laughing and having fun with each other in terms of our debates, I don’t think our House or any of our committees should be a place where we bring juvenile jokes like that.”
Carter was reportedly unhappy with Keam and other Democratic Party members eventually got involved in an effort to ease the tension after the House adjourned, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The controversy, still lingering, Keam tweeted out a public apology hours after the incident occurred.
This morning in @VaHouse Finance Committee meeting, my colleague @carterforva and I debated a tax bill. We hold divergent views on these policy issues, so I made a light-hearted visual joke about our differences. I apologize to Del. Carter for going overboard with my stupid joke.
— Mark L. Keam (@MarkKeam) February 26, 2018
Reaction to Keam’s alleged attempt at humor across Twitter and political commentators inside and outside of Virginia was quick and critical.
Blue Virginia, one the commonwealth’s most popular progressive blogs ran a post titled, “Sorry, Del. Keam, Glad You Apologized to Del. Carter, But That Really Was NOT Funny.”
Virginia political journalist Graham Moomaw pointed out the disparity between Keam’s off-base joke and Carter’s point at the time:
Just watched the full video of what led up to this. Carter was saying economic development should be about building from the ground up instead of tax breaks for billionaires
— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) February 26, 2018
Carter, a former Marine, later addressed the incident on Twitter as well, taking the opportunity to turn the controversy into a teachable moment, noting, “What’s interesting is that they fail to realize communism, socialism, and democratic socialism are all separate ideologies.”
[image via screengrab/lowkell/Youtube]