Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and his social media accounts are back in the news — this time because of a series of childish arguments and insults that found their way into the public domain.
Over the last two weeks, screenshots of exchanges between Merrill and various Alabama residents have shown Merrill telling people that they are “an embarrassment” and “a disgrace,” and encouraging one man to “get a sex change operation” so he could become who he was “intended to be.”
Merrill told al.com on Sunday that he regretted the exchanges. Speaking specifically about the message in which he encouraged the sex change operation, Merrill said it wasn’t productive and that he should have deleted the original message from the sender and moved on.
The sender was a Huntsville resident named Michael Richard, who admitted to al.com that he was trolling Merrill with his private Facebook messages.
Regardless of trolling, however, Merrill’s recommendation was both offensive and degrading, and it will undoubtedly draw the ire of many civil rights groups around the state and country.
Richard said his initial messages to Merrill were in response to Merrill retweeting a selectively edited video showing a white man being hit in the head during a protest and a message claiming there is a “war on whites.” Merrill also retweeted a message that referenced white people fighting back.
The full video of the incident shared by Merrill shows the white man kicking another person before being hit.
A number of progressive groups around the state took issue with Merrill’s retweet and called on him to apologize and take it down. In response, Merrill went on a mini-media tour, giving a number of interviews about the incident and claiming that his First Amendment rights were being threatened.
Richard admitted that he capitalized on what was clearly a sensitive issue for Merrill, sending him a Facebook private message saying, “You’re an embarrassment to this state.”
Merrill responded by telling Richard that he was a “liberal racist,” and things got way worse from there.
The exchange with Richard, however, was not the only one for Merrill in the last few days. Two other Facebook exchanges were also posted online — one with Michael Ledbetter, who Merrill tells to move and mind his own business, and Amy Styles, who Merrill calls “karen.”
This is also not the first time that Merrill has come under fire for the way he handles his social media accounts. He’s currently being sued in federal court for blocking some citizens.