An Indiana state official who tweeted that riot police in neighboring Wisconsin should "use live ammunition" to clear out pro-union demonstrators has lost his job but says his comments were meant as satire.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Cox "is no longer employed by this agency."
The office made the announcement after reviewing statements Cox purportedly made in tweets and blog posts, including one in which he said he advocated "deadly force" against "thugs" who threatened state elected officials in Wisconsin.
The tweets that got Cox in trouble were made in an exchange with Adam Weinstein, a copy editor at Mother Jones who has been writing about the worker protests at the Wisconsin Capitol. Wisconsin workers and their supporters have been demonstrating for well over a week against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's plan to strip public sector workers of nearly all their bargaining rights. Walker says the legislation is needed to help solve Wisconsin's looming budget deficit.
"The Indiana Attorney General's Office conducted a thorough and expeditious review after Mother Jones magazine today published an article attributing private Twitter postings and private blog postings to Cox," the attorney general's office said.
"Civility and courtesy toward all members of the public are very important to the Indiana Attorney General's Office. We respect individuals' First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility."
Cox did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Wednesday from msnbc.com, but told WRTV of Indianapolis that his Twitter comments were meant to be satirical.
"I think this whole situation is a bit ridiculous. Public employees don't lose their own First Amendment rights, especially on their own time and own resources by virtue of their public employment," he was quoted as saying. "I think we're getting down a slippery slope here in terms of silencing people who disagree."
Cox told the TV station he regrets his choice of words.
"I think, in this day and age, that tweet was not a good idea," he said. "In terms of that language, I'm not going to use it anymore."
The exchange that led to Cox's ouster started on Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted that a source had told them Wisconsin riot police were preparing to clear out demonstrators from the Wisconsin capitol building — something that didn't end up happening.
In response to that post, user JCCentCom tweeted, "Use live ammunition." He went on to tweet: "against thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor? You're damn right I advocate deadly force."
Weinstein said only later did he find out that JCCentCom was the Twitter user name for Cox, one of more than 140 attorneys in the Indiana Attorney General's Office. Weinstein wrote that Cox has expressed similar contempt for political opponents on his personal blog, Pro Cynic, which has since been disabled.
Weinstein said Mother Jones sent an e-mail to Cox's work address, asking if the Twitter and blog comments were his, and if he could provide context for some of them. According to Weinstein, Cox responded from a personal e-mail address: "For 'context?' Or to silence me? All my comments on twitter & my blog are my own and no one else's. And I can defend them all."Story: Wisconsin Democrats stage overnight filibuster
The Wisconsin state police union president said troopers would "absolutely" use force to clear out protesters if ordered by the governor, the investigative news website Raw Story reported on Monday.
Tracy Fuller, executive board president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, said state law officers would don riot gear and "do their job" if Walker ordered them to break up the protests, according to Raw Story.
"I have worked with the University of Wisconsin police officers that are there, along with the capitol police officers, and certainly I've worked with the state patrol officers because I'm a state patrol inspector. I'm not able to even fathom that any of those police officers would not carry out whatever orders were given to do their job," Fuller was quoted as saying.
However, Fuller added that he "can't even imagine that the governor or anybody else would think that's a viable option."
Rhetoric from both sides in the Wisconsin labor standoff has become increasingly heated.
On Tuesday, according to the Dorchester Reporter, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., fired up a crowd of union members and supporters at a solidarity rally outside the State House in Boston, urging them to fight against curbs to workers' rights like the legislation proposed in Wisconsin.
"I’m proud to be here with people who understand that it’s more than just sending an e-mail to get you going. Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,” Capuano was quoted as saying.
On Monday, Ann Althouse, a blogger, University of Wisconsin law professor and state employee, said she received a threatening comment after posting a YouTube video of salt trucks blowing their horns, apparently in support of the protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol.
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"Whoever video taped this has no life and needs to be shot in the head," the commenter wrote.
And in Atlanta, Tea Party backers urged "freedom-oriented folks" to show up — armed or otherwise — at a Wednesday afternoon rally at the Georgia State Capitol to counter planned rallies by public employee union members.
The post on the conservative Free Republic website said members of the "RTC will be there, with the usual accoutrements." RTC stands for "Right to Carry" firearms.
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