VIDEO | Republican candidate Dan Johnson addresses allegations of racism
The Republican state candidate at the center of a controversy surrounding alleged racist Facebook posts addressed the media and the public Tuesday afternoon...
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Republican state candidate at the center of a controversy surrounding alleged racist Facebook posts addressed the media and the public Tuesday afternoon and gave no indications that he plans to drop out of the race, despite calls from his own party to do so.
Dan Johnson, a Republican running for the Kentucky House of Representatives in the 49th district, has been criticized for a number of images posted or shared on his Facebook page, including a photo of a chimpanzee -- labeled as a baby picture of President Barack Obama -- and another image with ape-like features photo-shopped onto pictures of the Obama family.
Mac Brown, Chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, has released a statement apologizing for Johnson's posts, saying they do not reflect the views of Republicans.
But on Tuesday afternoon, Johnson told reporters that he still plans to continue his candidacy.
"There's a need for change in Frankfort…somebody needs to take a sledgehammer to the status quo -- and I’m that person," he said. "I'm looking forward to it.
He also made an indirect reference to the "make America great again!" slogan regularly used by Republican U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
"I'm that guy to take that sledgehammer -- to make Bullitt County great again, to make Kentucky great again," he said. "I'm willing to do the job."
When asked by a reporter about the images that seemed to compare President Obama to a monkey, Johnson used the opportunity to blast Kentucky politicians.
"Facebook is entertainment," he said. "It is to get peoples' attention, and I know exactly the post you're talking about, and I want to tell you right now, the politicians of Kentucky -- a lot of those politicians that were sent there to do a change, to do a great job and to help Kentucky -- have made a monkey out of the state. They've made a monkey out of Kentucky. There's a lot of politicians who I think have made a monkey out of the American people."
Johnson argued that his posts were no different than newspaper editorial cartoons that portrayed characatures of past Presidents, including George W. Bush.
"I surely didn't post anything to offend anyone, but these posts that have been cartoons or characterizations have been used by the news media -- by especially newspapers -- ever since, I know from Abraham Lincoln forward, you'll find them," he said. "All you have to do is look them up."
Johnson said his problem with President Obama was "personal," not "racial." He cited a class action lawsuit he took part in involving first responders -- as well as a funding bill President Obama voted on -- for his personal differences.
Johnson said he's heard from African-American leaders he says are on his side.
"I've got black pastors that are ready to stand with me," he said. "I've got black legislators who are willing to stand with me."
When asked to name these supporters, he declined, but said he had plans to call another press conference where they would be at his side.
Johnson was also asked about his opinion of Islam -- including whether or not Islam should be banned in the U.S.
"As long as the law says it should be banned, it should be banned, yes," he said, adding a moment later that, "The law is against any religion that is trying to take over this country. And their religion is of one that says that they are to take over -- or overthrow -- and put sharia law, or put Islam in charge."
"We have a lot of Islamic people that are here in this country that are not trying to take over," he added. "But we have folks that are now, are deemed radical Islamic, and those that are trying to take over are those that immediately come in and try to enforce sharia law -- try to put their jihadist beliefs in motion. Yeah, I'm not for that. There's no way. I don't think any American would be."
At the close of his press conference, Johnson made a Biblical reference about the offensiveness of Jesus Christ's message -- and pointed out that Jesus was doing good. Johnson said he wanted his message to be remembered, not for being racially offensive, but for offending both Republican and Democrat politicians.
Johnson said he had no plans to drop out of the race, despite calls from his own party to do so.
"If anybody is watching the news, the Republican Party has asked a few people to drop out of this race during this season," he said. "For the record, Donald Trump, that’s running for the Republican Party, has been asked to drop out, and thank God he didn’t."
Tres Watson, communications director for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Americans must be smart about how we exercise free speech.
"We have to not only understand what our rights are as Americans, especially when it comes to free speech, [but] have to show good judgement when exercising them," he said.
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