Republican state Sen. Michael Willette’s statement on the floor of the Maine Senate last week in reference to his bigoted Facebook posts wasn’t exactly the most fulsome apology. He expressed contrition only for “several criticisms of the president,” declining to elaborate on them but admitting that they were “completely inappropriate.”

I guess that’s technically an accurate description of what he wrote, but it doesn’t really express the full insanity of his posts, which attacked President Obama in racial terms, claimed he was in league with Islamic terrorists and accused him of actively plotting a violent seizure of power.

In his floor speech, Willette did not apologize at all for his attacks on Muslim Americans, who, he claimed in his posts, are universally deceitful and are trying to overthrow the United States from the inside, adding that if he had his way, he would “round them up and air drop them back into the rubble and hell holes from whence they came.”

The paucity and insincerity of Willette’s apology didn’t become fully clear to me, however, until I started getting calls and emails from some of his remaining Facebook friends. They told me – and then provided screenshots to prove it – that he has actually been liking posts and making new comments defending his previous statements, even after saying he was sorry for them.

Willette, for instance, liked a post accusing Maine Democrats of being “lowlife hypocrites” for criticizing his remarks. Another message he approved asserts that he has “nothing to apologize for,” and a third recommends that Maine Sunday Telegram columnists Ethan Strimling and Phil Harriman “GO TO HELL” for disagreeing with his actions.

In a comment Willette himself wrote, he calls the reaction to his bigoted posts a “textbook example of feigned outrage.”

So much for that apology.

It also turns out that Willette has not actually removed his previous, bigoted posts – the ones he semi-apologized for – from Facebook. He’s just made them viewable only to his hundreds of Facebook friends instead of the wider Internet.

As other screenshots provided by some of Willette’s friends show, those words and images we knew about are actually just the tip of the iceberg. He has also posted multiple images comparing Obama with Adolf Hitler, claimed the president is planning to enact a “Gestapo/SS style dictatorship,” accused him of treason, claimed he stole the 2012 election, claimed he was elected only “because of the color of his skin” and posted an image with a Confederate flag and the words “our forefathers would be shooting by now.”

These posts and images, and Willette’s obvious lack of contrition, are not, as he claimed in his statement to the Senate, simply the result of his “lashing out” against his “better judgment.” They show beyond a shadow of a doubt that he believes some absolutely loathsome things so deeply that he’s willing to express them publicly, on a daily basis, for a period of months.

Rather than call him out on his bigotry, Republican leaders have so far tried to shield the senator from any consequences for his actions. Senate President Michael Thibodeau has said that Willette’s apology is enough and has refused to allow an ethics investigation, remove Willette as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee, ask him to take racial sensitivity training or request that he meet with the NAACP and Democratic leaders together about their expressed concerns.

Others have gone even further in their defense of Willette. (And I don’t just mean the pseudonymous legions flooding newspaper comments sections and claiming he was right about Obama being a terrorist.) Former Republican state Rep. Jon McKane, who apparently has absolutely no understanding of racial history in this country, called the controversy surrounding Willette “an attempted lynching of a good man.”

Maine politicians have made racially insensitive comments in the past without being subject to censure or resignation, including Gov. Paul LePage, who in 2013 said at a private fundraiser that President Obama “hates white people.” Willette’s comments, however, differ from these cases in their number, consistency and intensity. A single bigoted or racist remark might be explained, if not excused, as a momentary lapse of judgment, but Willette’s bigotry has been deep, wide and public.

At a time when issues of race are central to our national conversation, and when issues of immigration and religion are central to the future of our state, we shouldn’t miss this opportunity to stand up together against this kind of hate.

Willette’s actions require a more significant response than a half-hearted apology, quickly retracted on Facebook.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @miketipping

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