Critics are calling on a House candidate in Arkansas to drop out the race after he claimed “fags are disgusting” and spread HIV in a Facebook rant.
District 87 hopeful Justin Jones made the offending remarks during a heated exchange with Myah Baeza, a Hawaii woman frustrated that her gay male friends cannot donate blood under current U.S. guidelines. In order to donate to agencies like the Red Cross, men who have sex with men (MSMs) have to remain celibate for a year in order to give blood.
“This is such an antiquated rule and it disgusts me,” Baeza said. “Women can have AIDS, too, and they search for it anyways?”
Jones responded to her post by defending the one-year deferral period, claiming that a “fag” is “1000% more likely than any straight person” to contract HIV. When challenged by Baeza as to why he would make such an assertion, the Elm Springs libertarian said, “Because it’s true.”
“Fags are disgusting,” Jones said.
“If you don’t think HIV is created by homosexuality then you need education,” he continued in a poorly punctuated diatribe. “That’s the entirety of my post, for someone who wants free speech, you don’t act like it. I shouldn’t have said ‘fags’ should have said homosexuals. But I won’t apologize of the moral of my comment, homosexuality is wrong, and shouldn’t be publicly endorsed.”
Baeza said Jones should be forced to abandon the race as a result of his homophobic remarks.
“When you’re running for public office, no matter if you disagree with your constituents, you’re still supposed to be representing them,” she told the Little Rock news station KARK-TV this week. “And how are you going to represent someone who you think is ‘disgusting?’”
“It just really upset me that there’s still people out there who feel like they can publicly say these kinds of things without ridicule,” Baeza continued.
The local Libertarian Party swiftly condemned his statements.
“Mr. Jones was until very recently a Republican supporter and candidate,” said Michael Kalagias, chair of the Benton County Libertarian Party, in a press release. “He came to the Libertarian Party, as have many others, because of his dissatisfaction with their failed policies and actions. The bigotry he brought with him, however, is certainly not welcome.”
He added that such rhetoric would not be “tolerated by the Benton County Libertarian Party, the Libertarian Party of Arkansas, or the national Libertarian Party, nor should it be tolerated by any decent person of any political party.”
In a statement, Party Chairman Dr. Michael Pakko said his beliefs are “antithetical” to those of true libertarians.
“We believe that the rights of the individual are paramountthat each person has the right to make decisions for themselves about what activities to pursue, what foods to eat, what beverages to drink, and who to love,” Pakko claimed in a statement.
“Mr. Jones is within his rights to associate with gay individuals or not, and to have opinions of his own about morality,” he added, “but the denigrating, insulting comments that have been attributed to him have no place in the political messaging of the Libertarian Party, and we disassociate ourselves from such offensive remarks.”
The Benton County Libertarian Party called upon Jones to “immediately abandon his campaign for office.”
Kalagias further urged the candidate “to refrain from returning to the political arena until such time as he has gained enough knowledge, wisdom, and maturity to do so responsibly.”
But Jones isn’t going anywhere, he claims.
“In response to the backlash caused by the media, it has been brought to my attention that I should suspend my campaign,” Jones said in a statement posted on his website. “After a phone call with the Chair of the Benton County Libertarian Party, Michael J. Kalagias, I informed him, that I will continue my candidacy for State Representative.”
“My candidacy is about the people of Elm Springs, Siloam Springs, Springdale, and Tontitown,” he added. “My campaign will continue to fight on the behalf of District 87. I would like to thank everyone for their support in my growing campaign.”
In a non-apology referencing President Donald Trump, Jones claimed the remarks were “satire.”
“In the new day of Social Media, we face backlash for every comment we make, which is putting ‘Free Speech’ at a price,” Jones said in a statement published after the controversy gained national attention. “The AIDS Epidemic is a VERY big part of the LGBTQ Community. To not recognize that would be a ‘Lie’ to yourself and the LGBTQ Community.
“In this New Day of politics, we are recognizing the benefits of throwing away the old establishment, and how that didn’t work,” he continued. “Today, we are bringing back ‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH,’ and protecting our 2nd amendment rights.
“That might be too much for some people, but that’s why we’re getting them out of Public Office,” Jones added. “Let’s get back to ‘Making Arkansas Great Again.’”
He closed with a reminder to vote for him on election day.
But the conservative state appears not to be buying what Jones is selling. According to the Arkansas Times, a majority of responses on his Facebook page said Jones’ comments aren’t reflective of his community’s values.
“Satire? I know satire sir, and that was not satire,” said fellow libertarian Bobbi Hicks, currently running in District 10. “What that is, however, is a comment that is going to lead potential voters to have the wrong idea about the LP and what we stand for. As a candidate, I will likely have to answer for your offensive comment.”
Jones will face off in the District 87 race against Democrat Kelly Scott Unger and Republican incumbent Robin Lundstrom.