August 28, 2013

Local official rebuked for offensive Obama Web post

David Marsters, who is running for Sabattus town selectman, wrote the statement: 'Shoot the ...' followed by a racial slur.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A Sabattus town official is under federal investigation and facing fierce criticism after he posted a message on Facebook calling for President Obama to be shot and referring to him with a racial slur.

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David Marsters

AP Photo/Lewiston Sun Journal

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David Marsters, 68, who is running for selectman, says he told Secret Service agents who questioned him Tuesday that he was not threatening the president when he posted the message at 8:17 p.m. Friday. It appeared above a picture of Obama and a link to a story about how some Republican lawmakers think the president deserves to be impeached.

The message said, "Shoot the ..." and included a racial slur.

"I think it's a lot of hogwash," Marsters said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I did not threaten the president. ... I might have used the wrong words. ... I didn't say I was going to do it."

He said his post was taken out of context.

"What I really meant to say is, 'When are we going to get rid of this (expletive),'" he said. "I should have said, 'I hope the bastard dies.'"

Marsters said that after his Facebook post drew public scrutiny, he was visited by local law enforcement officers, the Secret Service and CIA agents. Marsters said a Secret Service agent told him he was not being arrested immediately, but the agent would submit a report to a higher authority.

Calls to the Secret Service were not returned Tuesday. The agency, which protects the president, investigates all threats against him.

Civil rights advocates and local leaders condemned Marsters' post, saying it was outrageous, an embarrassment for the town and a betrayal of law enforcement. Marsters is a retired police officer from Massachusetts.

"In three words, this statement incites violence to the level of murder, advocates for the assassination of a United States president, and uses what is likely the most deplorable racial slur in American history -- all in one short sentence; all forming such a hateful statement and sentiment," Town Manager Andrew Gilmore said in a written statement Tuesday.

Civil rights advocates said Marsters' statement is unacceptable and requires a strong response because, if ignored, it can pave the way for more serious behavior in society.

"When somebody who is seeking a public position says something like this, it tends to encourage other people. It legitimizes this. 'Maybe it's OK to take it a step further,'" said Steve Wessler, former civil rights prosecutor for the Maine Attorney General's Office who now works with police and other organizations in and outside the U.S. to investigate hate crimes.

"It's extraordinarily irresponsible," Wessler said. "Just think about how a 14-year-old black boy or girl reacts to hearing there are people not only referring to the president by that word, but talking about 'We want to shoot him.' That's extraordinarily degrading."

Gilmore said he learned of Marsters' statement late Monday night when he, Police Chief Anthony Ward and Selectmen Chairman Mark Duquette got anonymous emails from several residents, with pictures of the statement on the Facebook page.

"If these statements were indeed made by Mr. Marsters and that is proven during this investigation, I need to clearly state that I am deeply concerned, appalled, and frankly dumbfounded as to why he or anyone would declare such a thing, let alone print it for the world to see," Gilmore said in his statement on behalf of the town of 5,000 just outside Lewiston.

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