There are some things that even horrible people should know not to say in public, as a matter of self-preservation. But lucky for us, the internet transgresses the bounds of common sense.
A recent Facebook post made by a St. Louis police officer is a telling lesson. Lieutenant Jerry Foster made a post poking fun at the fact that Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by police in the nearby city of Ferguson in 2014, would be speaking at the Democratic National Convention.
"It is the Democratic Criminal Convention. How fitting," Foster wrote, citing her ongoing legal troubles, according to screenshots that were sent to the St. Louis American. Getting warm, but the replies to the post soon grew outright racist and troubling.
At one point, a reporter for the St. Louis Fox affiliate weighed in, using an astoundingly unsympathetic string of hateful words.
"She's going to talk about the new lead diet she's endorsed," wrote reporter and photographer Bobby Hughes. "Five servings and you can lose 200 pounds in two years."
Michael Brown was shot at least six times by officer Darren Wilson just about two years ago; Wilson was cleared of any wrongdoing. The post is an obvious allusion to his killing, which set off widespread protests in the region.
In response to the post, the Ethical Society of Police, an organization that represents 200 minority police officers in the region, put out a statement calling for an apology.
“The trivial manner in which Mr. Hughes refers to the brutal death of Michael Brown is disheartening. We should all seek to behave in a manner that’s humane to others, especially when someone has experienced such a loss as Mrs. McSpadden and the Brown family," the statement read.
Hughes removed the post after the Ethical Society contacted the Fox affiliate. On Twitter, St. Louis journalist Charles Jaco said that sources told him that Hughes has been suspended with pay, but the organization has not issued any comment about the incident.
After this played out online, Hughes offered an apology for the incident:
I would like to apologize for the hurtful posts I recently made on my Facebook page. I specifically want to tell Michael Brown’s family how very sorry I am. As a parent, I can’t imagine losing a child and what I wrote was incredibly insensitive considering all that Mrs. Lezley McSpadden has been through. My two inappropriate posts are by no means a reflection of the views at KTVI/KPLR. They are a news organization that prides itself on being fair. I on the other hand was anything but fair – and for that I am deeply sorry.
Across social media, people started calling for a boycott of the station until Hughes steps down. Sgt. Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society, echoed that sentiment, telling the American that it would be the right thing to do.
“Fox 2 has an obligation to be fair,” Taylor said, “and the fair thing is for him to step down.”
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.