WATERVILLE — Mayor Nick Isgro is facing a growing backlash for a social media post about a survivor of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, including demands that he apologize or resign from office.

Meanwhile, Democrats, some city councilors and residents said Thursday the mayor’s recent tweet about David Hogg isn’t an anomaly and is just the latest in a string of inflammatory and divisive posts the Republican mayor has made on social media.

Nick Isgro

Earlier in the week, Isgro posted in a now-deleted Tweet that Parkland student David Hogg should “Eat it, Hogg.”

His post came in response to an article about Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s disparaging comments about Hogg and was screenshot by a group called Waterville Republicans, who initially called on Isgro to apologize for his remark.

Isgro was not at his office at Skowhegan Savings Bank in Skowhegan, where he is an assistant vice president and controller, when a reporter stopped by Thursday. He declined to comment in a Facebook message.

“One day after news broke that the Republican Mayor of Waterville, Nick Isgro, verbally attacked a Parkland school shooting survivor, more reports are now emerging that the Mayor’s tweet telling David Hogg to “eat it” is actually another in a long line of aggressive and often bigoted social media statements he has made,” the Maine Democratic Party said in a news release.

The party also shared a report from the Maine Beacon, a publication of the progressive Maine People’s Alliance, documenting several instances of racist, misogynistic and bigoted statements made by Isgro on social media and documented by Andy O’Brien, a reporter for the mid-coast Free Press. The posts include Isgro defending accused child molester Roy Moore during the Alabama Senate election last year, rants against public education and a vulgar reference to anti-sexual harassment legislation.

Related

DEMOCRATIC COUNCILORS CONDEMN REMARKS

Four Democratic city councilors Thursday also condemned Isgro’s comments. Three of them — Lauren Lessing, John O’Donnell and Winifred Tate — said they do not follow Isgro on social media or do not use social media but were alarmed by his recent Tweet.

“Personally, I think Waterville is an excellent city and the views of the mayor don’t represent all the citizens,” said Steven Soule, a Democrat and the council chair. Soule does follow Isgro on social media but would not comment on whether he has been alarmed by past posts.

“The youth in our schools are our future and their voices are the only hope we have for change so we shouldn’t be criticizing the youth,” Soule said

Lauren Lessing, who represents Ward 3, said she is not on social media but constituents in her ward brought concerns to her in October about a post Isgro had made about the Maine March for Racial Justice held at Colby College. She also shared a screenshot of the post.

“Why were two city councilors just spotted in a crowd that’s waving communist Antifa flags?” it said.

Lessing said the post prompted one of Isgro’s followers to post a threat that left her constituents frightened. Lessing didn’t see the threat herself but was told that the man who posted it threatened to drive a car into marchers.

She said she reported the screenshot and threat to Colby security.

“Those marchers were not Antifa, for goodness sake — they were Colby students, faculty, city councilors, and local clergy (including my Rabbi),” she said in an email. “The thought that anyone in office might incite violent anger against these folks was stomach churning.

“It’s all the more confusing because Nick himself does not present this way in public, where (though I sometimes disagree with him politically) he generally seems personable and intelligent.”

John O’Donnell, a former council chairman elected Tuesday to represent Ward 5, said he didn’t know a lot about Isgro’s social media presence because he himself is not on social media.

“I’ve heard suggestions that there have been posts that are not appropriate, but I can’t confirm that,” O’Donnell said. “I did hear about this one, and it was disappointing because assuming the allegation is true, I don’t know why Nick would post that. It seems we should be supporting the kids in Parkland rather than denigrating or criticizing.”

O’Donnell said he hadn’t talked to Isgro about his comment but said if it’s true he ought to “step up and own it” or apologize.

His opponent in the recent Ward 5 election, fellow Democrat Julian Payne, defended Isgro.

“I think we have one of the greatest mayors Waterville has ever had,” he said. “I think he has stood up for people against the government, and when you’re an elected official it can be hard to be in the public eye all the time.”

Payne said he is Facebook friends with Isgro but does not follow him and has not seen many of his posts. He is not on Twitter.

“When any elected official speaks, people are going to jump on something they think isn’t quite kosher,” Payne said. “Usually it’s the opposition and it’s sort of a lynch mob. This is a man who makes sacrifices with his family and really backs the city. It’s a witch hunt.”

In a statement made over the phone, Winifred Tate, Ward 6, said Isgro’s comments were “divisive and inflammatory” and that while she does not personally follow him on social media, constituents have brought up his comments to her before.

“The job of the mayor is to represent all residents and be an ambassador for the city,” Tate said. “This is an amazing time for Waterville and we all need to ensure that the businesses and families that want to grow with us feel welcome. The mayor’s divisive and inflammatory use of social media does not reflect our community’s values and is not in the best interest of our community.”

Sydney Mayhew, the only Republican on the council, did not respond to a call seeking comment Thursday.

Councilors Nathaniel White and Jackie Dupont, both Democrats, also did not respond to calls seeking comment Thursday

CRITICISM FROM DEMOCRATS AND OTHERS BUILDS

Meanwhile, Isgro’s post also elicited widespread criticism from Democrats and others across the state.

Bryan Evans, who works at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter in Waterville according to his Facebook page, posted Thursday that Isgro should resign.

“This is embarrassing to our city. In his defense he has said much worse …” Evans wrote.

Evans did not respond to a Facebook message seeking comment, but his post attracted reaction from several prominent Democrats across the state.

“The mayor should resign,” wrote Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester. “His comments are unacceptable.”

Evans also wrote that Isgro had blocked him on Facebook from tagging the city in his post. Sarah Bowen, an executive assistant in city offices, said she runs the Facebook page and had not blocked any comments regarding the mayor’s social media posts on Thursday. She said she is the only one with access to the account.

Karen Heck, a Democrat who served as mayor of Waterville prior to Isgro and endorsed him when he first ran for office in 2014, said in an email that she had been impressed with the way he respectfully argued his points during contentious debates over the city’s recycling program.

“Sadly, that is no longer true,” Heck said. “His recent behavior, both vetoing a unanimously passed City Council resolution and his entirely inappropriate tweet attacking a teenager, is not what this city deserves in a leader.

“At a time when the rest of the state is paying attention to the good things that are happening here, he should be paying attention to making sure the schools are funded, the roads are paved, and people see Waterville as a welcoming community.”

Lance Dutson, a Republican commentator and columnist, also took to Twitter to call out Isgro with screenshots of attacks on the pope and Muslims. Dutson also called on Skowhegan Savings Bank to take action.

“This is the same Nick Isgro who serves in a senior position at @SkowSavingsBank. Hard to imagine a respectable company allowing one of their senior staffers to make such disgusting public statements,” Dutson wrote.

Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, declined to comment on Isgro’s post on Wednesday.

“We are at a point in our nation’s history right now where we feel some major reforms are needed,” he said. “The other side is trying to maintain the status quo and it’s hurting our country and the future for our children. So there are going to be political disagreements, and I think that’s what is leading to a lot of this, but it’s not something we can get in the middle of.”

Meanwhile, BJ McCollister, executive director of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, started a petition calling for Isgro to resign. The petition had more than 4,300 signatures as of Thursday afternoon. The population of Waterville is about 16,400, though it was not clear how many of the signatures were from residents.

Isgro’s recent post follows backlash over another Maine politician, Republican Leslie Gibson, who abandoned his campaign to represent House District 57 last month after social media reaction to his comments about survivors of the Parkland shooting. Gibson referred to student Emma Gonzalez as a “skinhead lesbian” and called Hogg a “bald faced liar.”

It’s also not the first time Isgro, who weighed a run for governor last fall, has come under fire for his social media comments.

In 2015 he apologized for calling members of Waterville’s planning board inept and cowardly on Twitter.