Bill Torpy at Large: With ‘racist pig,’ a goof falls on his Facebook

Commissioner Tommy Hunter listens to Gwinnett county residents who came Tuesday to speak out against his words aimed at John Lewis on Facebook. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

Commissioner Tommy Hunter listens to Gwinnett county residents who came Tuesday to speak out against his words aimed at John Lewis on Facebook. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

It forever amazes me that relatively smart people keep saying awful and stupid things in a really public way.

I assume Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter is relatively smart because he was able to twice get elected to a district representing almost a quarter-million people. Also, he’s an exec with an environmental tech firm, which means he is cognizant of some science and intelligent enough to wipe the food off his chin before walking into a presentation to drum up business.

Bill Torpy is a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Hunter, as you probably know by now, is the goof (yes, he is now relegated to goof status) who got on Facebook and called Congressman John Lewis a "racist pig" and then dumped on "Demonrats" (as in Demon rats) who are "idiots."

Now, thanks to social media, you can show the world your rear end much faster than ever. Hunter is the latest to display his gleaming buttocks.

What got Commissioner Hunter’s tirade rolling was hearing Rep. Lewis grumble last week on some news show that Donald Trump was not the “legitimate” president because the Ruskies helped steal the election away from Hillary. The Donald, never one to let a slight go unTweeted, fired back at the aging civil rights hero and dumped on his “crime infested” and “horrible” district, which is largely Atlanta.

The Republican Hunter, fresh from his own elective victory — in which he pulled 51 percent of a demographically mixed district — apparently forgot that half the people he is sworn to represent are “Demon rats” and/or “idiots.”

On Sunday, a day after the “racist pig” swipe, Hunter doubled down, saying “John Lewis’ district is drawn to keep him in power. His wins are all illegitimate.” (Actually, the GOP have done a remarkable job of packing black voters into districts to allow the election of a few Dems and even more Republicans, but that’s another story.)

Later, he went all online tough guy. “If you’re easily offended and looking for a ‘safe place’ my page ain’t it. Move along snowflake.”

Well, on Tuesday afternoon, the Gwinnett commission meeting drew a blizzard of angry snowflakes ready to tell Hunter — repeatedly — that they think he's an embarrassment and that he should resign. He sat through nearly three hours of blistering with a long, impassive face.

“Sir, you have breached the public trust,” said Veronica Jones. “Your behavior has caused a national embarrassment for Gwinnett County.”

“The shame from your fellow commissioners is palpable but you have none,” said Jamie Winfrey, who held a sign saying: “You, sir, are the racist pig.”

Winfrey, a middle-aged white woman who grew up in Gwinnett, said the schools were largely white when she attended, and she did not learn about people who did not look like her until she went off to college.

“My children are learning much more about what you have yet to learn,” she said.

Dozens of protesters gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Gwinnett County and Justice Administration Center in response to Commissioner Tommy Hunter's "racist pig" Facebook post.

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Twenty-five years ago, Gwinnett had barely 400,000 residents, almost nine out of 10 of them white.

Gwinnett now is about 40 percent white, 28 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and 12 percent Asian. All five commissioners are white. The candidate Hunter narrowly beat is black.

At the start of the meeting, Hunter read a statement with a tepid apology saying he regretted “the choice of words” about Lewis.

“I will not allow baseless accusations of racism against me or anyone,” Hunter said. “I’ve learned a lot from this and will continue to work hard to serve all of District 3, and all the people of Gwinnett County.”

Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash was the only commissioner other than Hunter to talk about the elephant in the auditorium.

“The press has been pushing me to make a statement,” she said, so she read a letter of apology that she sent to Lewis. In the letter, she offered to apologize in person to the congressman for the “disrespectful comments” by an unnamed “Gwinnett district commissioner.”

Several in the crowd shouted out, “Name him!”

“Hurtful words and name-calling,” she concluded, “should not have a place in governing.”

Hunter will not resign, nor probably should he for this. But what may be as bad as him getting small, petty and personal with Lewis is the ease with which he dismissed half of his constituency as Demon rats — and in an earlier post as “libtards.”

Earlier, he told AJC reporter Tyler Estep that his comments about Lewis were “probably an overreaction.” But he didn’t back down, saying that Lewis “was using his fame as a way to continually divide the races.”

So, when faced with what he thought were divisive statements by Lewis, this Sunday school teacher decided to go all Trumpian — he doubled down. That’s how things are done nowadays. Damn the olive branches, or even reasonable rhetoric of disagreement. No, these days, a kick in the gonads or an eye gouge will suffice.

Interestingly, the website for Hunter’s employer, United Consulting, features prominently that the company does work for the city of Atlanta, which is famously full of Demonrats. The firm called his statements “abhorrent,” and I’m sure he’s had a meeting where a superior is talking loudly at him as he glances at his shoes.

I called state Rep. Buzz Brockway, a Republican legislator from Gwinnett whose district crosses over a bit of Hunter's.

What in the world are people thinking when they do something like this?

“It’s easier to find people who think like you and talk with them,” Brockway said. “I think we lose sight of (polite talk) because we surround ourselves with like-minded people.”

“You have to learn to have empathy,” he said. “You have to try to see how it feels in someone else’s shoes.”

Maybe Hunter can incorporate some of that into Sunday school lessons this week.