Shouldn’t a Public Safety Official Who Jokes About Presidential Assassination Resign? (UPDATED)

Staggering. - promoted by david

First, kudos to Blue Mass Group’s chrismatth for calling attention to this incident.  Think Progress relays:

At a Massachusetts Republican Party St. Patrick’s Day breakfast Sunday, Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald, Jr. (R) “joked” that the nation would be better off if President Obama were assassinated.

Blue Mass Group reports that the Boston Globe noted the stunning comment Sunday:

McDonald offered a joke about Barack Obama being visited in a dream by three past presidents, who offered advice on how to improve the country. Lincoln’s advice: “Go to the theater.”

We get the wildly offensive “joke.”  Sheriff McDonald is trying to drum up Republican laughs by joking about the assassination of President Barack Obama.

This joke goes way beyond the typical sometimes-off-color fare at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.  For the average person on the street, a joke about the assassination of a U.S. President is wildly inappropriate, to say the least.  The offense is compounded by the fact that gun violence is, for extremely obvious reasons, a highly sensitive and salient issue these days.  The offense is further compounded still by the fact that the person making the wildly inappropriate joke is someone in the elected position of being responsible for public safety, i.e. someone who should both know better and should be held to a zero tolerance standard regarding jokes about murder and Presidential assassination.

What does this say about Sheriff McDonald’s judgment?  If someone is entrusted with our public safety and still decides that it’s hilarious to make jokes about murder, in fact to make jokes about a Presidential assassination – with mass shootings happening on a fairly regular basis lately, mind you – shouldn’t that elected official resign his office?  Judging by the comments piling up on the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page, the consensus is yes.  [UPDATE: Whoever maintains the Plymouth County Sheriff Department's Facebook page has been very busy deleting user comments calling for the Sheriff's resignation.  Dozens of comments have disappeared.  Meanwhile, I still haven't seen any public comment, apology, or other response from the Sheriff himself on his "joke."]


26 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Sheriff now Violating Mass Law!?

    Sheriff McDonald’s team has now deleted all of the comments condemning his actions from his OFFICIAL Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department page. This seems to possibly be in violation of MA Law.

    From the MassTreasury social media page:

    Please note, that Records Retention Law of the Commonwealth requires the Mass.Gov portal team to preserve records created or received by a state employee. Pursuant to this retention requirement comments posted or messages received via an official state agency page on a third-party web-site (such as an official agency profile on a social network) will be treated as state governmental records and may be permanently archived.

    Information that you submit voluntarily through social media sites associated with this agency where such information is publically available, including your name, city or town, and the substance of anything that you post may be disseminated further by being posted online at this website or be publicly discussed by a member of the administration.

    chrismatth   @   Mon 18 Mar 8:53 PM
  2. Is this anything like the Gov. of Virginia...

    …saying Cheney should take GWB on a hunting trip at a Dem state party dinner?

    Come to think of it…wasn’t that on the BMG joke page?

    • Does Virginia have a records retention law?

      I don’t remember the episode you refer to (my Google search only turned up tasteless remarks Mr. Cheney made in 2008 about West Virgina, and subsequently apologized for).

      Did Virginia have a records retention law when that episode happened? Did the Governor in question scrub official websites in apparent violation of that law?

    • The one quill porcupine

      The batteries in the Hypocrisy Patrol have been replaced and the bot has issued another standard comment.

  3. The Answer is No

    Lighten Up Francis

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Mon 18 Mar 10:17 PM
  4. What is with sheriffs, anyway

    I’ve seen a number of headlines/articles/blog posts about sheriffs out west declaring which gun laws they’ll enforce and which they won’t, etc. When did sheriffs break away from the legal justice system, or has it always been this way?

    It just seems like, somehow, there are lots of examples of sheriffs expanding their role to something far bigger, separation of powers be damned.

  5. Much Ado About Nothing

    This is such nonsense. It’s a pretty stupid joke, yes. Tasteless and wrong for the times. But, c’mon, it’s hardly a firing offense to make a stupid joke at such an occassion.

    Plus, and this is important, it’s an old joke!

    Here it is about George W. Bush:

    Here it is about Hillary CLinton:×1444178

    There comes a time (let’s say 100 years?) when it becomes okay (if not actually funny) to joke about even a presidential assasination. See e.g.:

    C’mon folks, let’s get back to banning sodas over sixteen ounces and smoking in public parks. Even “offensive” jokes aren’t worth such a ruckus.

  6. An Old Joke II

    Here it is about Bill Clinton (from 1998):

    Here it is about George W. Bush (one of hundreds of examples):

    Here it is about Obama (from 2011):

    Here is is about Obama again(from January):

    Google: joke lincoln “go see a play” gets 902,000 results.

    Let’s drop the sanctimonious nonesense now?

    • Sanctimonious? Killing elected officials?

      People don’t want their president to be assassinated, and they don’t want their law enforcement officials to make jokes about murdering elected officials. What is wrong with that?

      • Sanctimony

        Most such “people” (we liberals) laughed (or at least withheld judgement) when this same stupid joke was told about George W. Bush. Hundreds and hundreds of times. (see e.g.:

        Now, we sanctimoniously demand the resignation of an elected official using the exact same stupid joke about President Obama? That is hypocrisy and nonsense of the highest order.

        • I call "bullshit"

          I’m sorry, but if you or I make a “joke” about assassinating the president, we can expect to be prosecuted.

          I grew up in Washington DC, I remember the Kennedy assassination. Similarly, if you or I make a “joke” about a bomb on a plane (or any other terrorist act), we can expect serious consequences.

          The fact that this tired “joke” has been circulating since a decade after Lincoln’s assassination, or that tasteless people continue to retell it, does not change the reality that the assassination of a public official is no laughing matter — just ask former Rep. Giffords. The irony that this “joke” comes from the same mob that brings us “second amendment solutions” should not be lost on anybody.

          There’s nothing hypocritical or “sanctimonious” about demanding that public officials keep their public commentary within the same boundaries that we peons risk prosecution for violating.

          • There you go again...

            C’mon Tom, I’ve followed your posts on here for years. You are much smarter than this.

            What you say here is simply untrue. Thanks to our First Amendment, it would be almost impossible to successfully prosecute anyone (peon or not) for making a joke like the one at issue here.

            If the fact that literally thousands of people (peons and sluggards alike) have actually made the *exact* same joke in many contexts and *not* been prosecuted is not enough evidence for you of that truth, then I’d suggest reading Watts v. the United States ( There, the Supreme Court of the United States makes it clear that the law making it a felony to threaten the President “must be interpreted with the commands of the First Amendment clearly in mind. What is a threat must be distinguished from what is constitutionally protected speech.”

            Of course, it’s perfectly within our rights to vehemently criticize anyone who says something we don’t like. This debate itself raises no constitutional issues. But the First Amendment does protect us all from prosecution (and government-imposed censorship) for even stupid jokes about the assassination of the President. Importantly here, the First Amendment also protects public employees (like the Sherriff) from retaliation for exercising their free speech rights.

            Constitutional debate aside, I continue to think it is sanctimonious (in the “I’m holier than thou” sense) to make such a fuss over a bad joke made at the Southie St Patrick’s Day breakfast. I continue to believe that if the same joke was made about George Bush we liberals would fail to see this as a firing offense.

            • continue to believe that if the same joke was made about George Bush we liberals would fail to see this as a firing offense.

              Absolutely, 100% spot-on. Nobody here would be talking about that joke.

              • I don't think

                McDonald should be fired or whatever. I do think it was in really poor taste and he should apologize.

                I couldn’t stand George W. Bush and made plenty of jokes about him, but I’d feel the same way about a Bush assassination joke as I do about this one. Just crosses a line. And I’d have felt that way even if Bush’s death wouldn’t have resulted in President Cheney.

          • Jesus, Tom, not all that big a fan of free speech, huh?

            Screw the president, Tom. Practically every one of our presidents has been a corrupt Machiavellian scumbag of some variety or another, and they’ve got the power to kill and/or send people to their deaths whenever the whim strikes them (see “drones” and the “Iraq War” for examples). In this country, the murder of ordinary civilians, either by police or by other civilians, is exponentially more common than the assassination of public officials- politician is probably one of safest occupations this side of the Atlantic. It should be illegal to joke about killing chefs or cab drivers- I’d wager they’re far more at-risk of actually being killed than “public officials”. This is America- fuck “lese majeste“.

          • and John Kerry

            Joking about “killing two birds with one stone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”?
            Goose and Gander?

            • RIF

              Or, in this case, WIF. Watch the video, then get back to us. Senator Kerry was not at all joking about assassinating Bush. Not even close.

              • Another interpretation?

                This seems to be the conversation between Maher and Kerry. I guess we have different interpretations.

                (Maher asks Kerry what he got his wife for her birthday)
                kerry: I did not get her catchup
                maher: … you could have gone to New Hampshire and killed two birds with one stone.
                kerry: I could have gone to 1600 Pennsylvania and killed the real bird with one stone.

                • How about John Kerry's joke about assassinating VP Dan Quayle?

                  At a businessman’s breakfast Tuesday, Kerry responded to a question about Quayle’s ability to govern by saying, “Somebody told me the other day that the Secret Service has orders that if George Bush is shot, they’re to shoot Quayle”.

                  • It's Kerry's fault that McDonald ...

                    a law enforcement officer made the joke. Then later said he would say it again.

                    Thanks for your insight.

                    • Johnk- are you condoning Kerry's joke?

                      Both are blockheads for making the jokes. I am dismayed why people want the sheriff to resign but the very same people likely chuckled at Kerry’s joke and voted for him. No hypocrisy, johnk? That is my point, as I am sure you are well aware.

                      We have bigger issues, this is a distraction. I tend to avoid these posts but felt I need to be the one to put the period on the topic, so we can all move on.

                      Thanks for responding to my comment.

                    • the difference ..

                      which is significant, is that Kerry immediately apologized and said it was inappropriate. This dipshit said he’ll do it again.

                      Now, what you really need to do it take this at face value. This is about McDonald. What you are trying to do is push blame elsewhere. This is about a Sheriff who made the joke. This is not about John Kerry, no matter how much you want it to be. This is about a law enforcement officer who said that presidential assassination is so freakin’ funny to him that he’ll keep on telling the joke.

                      Should we be upset that some Republican loser telling obnoxious and inappropriate jokes in public? Unfortunately, this stuff is fairly common. McDonald’s mistake is that he doubled down on being an idiot. So if you gave him the benefit of the doubt about the joke, his response afterwards pretty clearly show what kind of obnoxious loser that he really is. Should this kind of irresponsible person really be in charge of anything this significant is the question.

                      No problem, thank you for your comment.

  7. Is the Nazi part old as well?

    Keep digging, Sheriff — keep digging!

    The irony of it is, it’s perfectly OK for them [liberals] to make those jokes about President Bush or someone from the other side of the aisle. I can imagine what some of this place comes from not 2013 United States, it’s more like Nazi Germany in 1938.

    sabutai   @   Tue 19 Mar 7:39 PM

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