An Indiana state official has found himself in the middle of his own labor controversy for tweeting that riot police in neighboring Wisconsin should "use live ammunition" to clear out pro-union demonstrators.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it is reviewing statements Jeffrey Cox, a deputy attorney general, 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 in question 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.
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On Saturday night, 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."
Cox did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Wednesday from msnbc.com.
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that it "does not condone the inflammatory statements asserted in the 'Mother Jones' article and we do not condone any comments that would threaten or imply violence or intimidation toward anyone.
"Civility and courtesy toward all constituents is very important to this agency. We take this matter very seriously," the statement said.
It went on: "An immediate review of this personnel matter is now under way to determine whether the assertions made in the Mother Jones article about an employee are accurate. When that review is complete, appropriate personnel action will be taken.
"The subjects of the offensive postings are not related in any way to this employee’s job duties. The reporter who wrote the Mother Jones article informs us that the offensive postings over the weekend were made using a personal Twitter account and personal e-mail, not a state government e-mail account."
A spokesperson said the attorney general's office would have no further comment.
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.
"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.