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|Chambliss’ office responsible for anti-gay slur|
|by Ryan Watkins|
|October 01, 2010 00:00|
Georgia LGBT groups were up in arms this week after an anti-gay death threat in an online forum was tracked back to the office of Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT political group, organized supporters to call Chambliss’ local offices around the state, while the upstart Queer Justice League demanded that Chambliss apologize.
“We want an official, contrite apology for Senator Chambliss, to the LGBT community and to all Georgians,” QJL’s Art Izzard said in a press release. “We also want Sen. Chambliss to commit to engaging his employees in sensitivity training, to equip them to better handle the concerns of his constituents.”
At press time Sept. 28, QJL planned to deliver a letter to Chambliss’ Atlanta office on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
The malicious comment was posted on the popular gay blog Joe.My.God. in the aftermath of the Senate’s cloture vote on the 2011 Defense Authorization bill that included repeal language for the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The commenter, who identified himself as “Jimmy,” left a message which read “All faggots must die” shortly after the Senate failed to move forward on the defense bill.
Joe Jervis, the site’s operator, put out a call to readers to help find the culprit and within hours, his readers were able to trail the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the commenter to the Atlanta offices of either U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) or Johnny Iskason (R-Ga.).
A trace on the IP led to the latitude and longitude of the Atlanta office and a WHOIS report determined that the address belonged to the U.S. Senate.
Chambliss admitted the post came from his office shortly after but was quick to denounce the hate speech in a press release.
“This office has not and will not tolerate any activity of the sort alleged. Once we have ascertained whether these claims are true, we will take the appropriate steps,” he said.
The GA Voice reached out to Chambliss’ office for additional comment. A spokesperson confirmed the comment came from within their office but declined to give any further information.
“We have engaged the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms in an internal review,” the spokesperson said.
“The SAA has worked side by side with our personnel to determine whether the comment in question emanated from our office. That appears to be the case. There has not been a determination as to who posted the comment. That part of the review is ongoing, and is now in the hands of the Senate Sergeant at Arms.”
The Senate Sergeant at Arms serves as the protocol and chief law enforcement officer for the Senate.
The SSA office also handles investigations of misconduct by Senate staffers.
In an interview with the Village Voice, Jervis said he was unconvinced the post came from Chambliss’ offices.
“We’ve confirmed it came out of one of two offices, but the other one [Sen. Johnny Isakson] is up for re-election, and I wonder if someone in the office who isn’t running for re-election is going to fall on a sword to keep attention from the one running in a tight race,” Jervis said.
Iskason will face off against Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond on Nov. 2 and has denied any staff involvement in the post. Though early polls show Iskason with a comfortable lead over Thurmond, any campaign-season controversy would be unwelcome.
As of press time, no one from Chambliss’ staff had been reprimanded for posting the malicious comment.
A call to the offices of the Senate Sergeant at Arms failed to provide any insight into the investigation or how any possible punishment would be handed down.
“It’s under review,” said a SSA spokesperson who wished to remain anonymous. “We’re still investigating. We can’t give out any more information because it’s still being investigated.”
The spokesperson also declined to comment on what information or computers, if any, had been collected from Chambliss’ Atlanta offices and turned over to the SSA office.
Bronwyn Lance Chester, a Chambliss spokesperson, also declined to give any specific information on the investigation. “All inquiries on the investigation should be directed to the Senate Sergeant at Arms’ office,” she said.
Chambliss spoke out on the controversy to The Hill, a news publication that covers the U.S. House and Senate.
“I won’t tolerate any kind of sentiment like that,” Chambliss was quoted as saying. “We’ll have to see what’s found out.”
Chambliss suggested that the offender would be fired, but failed to make an outright promise, according to The Hill. He instead said he would wait until the investigation was finalized before making any decisions.
According to The Hill, Chambliss’ office staffs 42 employees.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who is gay and was an internet entrepreneur before being elected to Congress, offered to find out who left the comment himself.
“It’s extremely easy,” Polis told CNN’s AC360. “We know which computer it came from — all you need to do is look at the browser history. And if one of them erased their browser history, boom, you’ve figured out who it is,” Polis said. “It couldn’t be easier. If they can’t figure it out, I will go down there myself and do it for them.”
Top photo: U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a press release that his office ‘will not tolerate’ behavior like the anti-gay comment left on a gay blog, but at press time, had not announced results from an investigation into who is responsible. (courtesy U.S. Senate)
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