A state Republican group apologized Sunday after sharing a meme calling four Democratic congresswomen the “The Jihad Squad.” The post showed a faux movie poster featuring Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar –– progressive lawmakers known as “the Squad” who were the target of attacks from President Trump last week. 

The Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association (RCCA), a group that helps elect Republicans in the state, drew widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle after it posted a photoshopped image of the four congresswomen with guns, labeled “The Jihad Squad.” A logo for the RCCA appeared at the bottom. 

The association’s president, Mark Shaw, apologized in a statement Sunday night for the meme. “I condemn this unauthorized posting and it has been deleted,” Shaw wrote. “I am sorry if anyone who saw the image was offended by the contents.” 

He added,”This unauthorized posting is an unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by these four socialist members of the United States House of Representatives of which I strongly disagree.” 

The meme, which mimics the poster for the 2013 action flick “Gangster Squad.” depicts Pressley aiming a handgun, Omar with a high-powered rifle, Tlaib shouting with a gun in her hand, and Ocasio-Cortez wearing a red dress surrounded by flames. Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women ever elected into Congress. The slogan under the photo said: “Political jihad is their game. If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re a racist.”

The Illinois Republican Party chairman Tim Schneider condemned the post, saying it doesn’t reflect his party’s values. “Bigoted rhetoric greatly distracts from legitimate and important policy debates and further divides our nation. My intense disagreement with the socialist policies and anti-semitic language of these four congresswomen has absolutely nothing to do with their race or religion,” he said.

The Cook County Democratic Party called the meme a “racist and inflammatory attack” on the four congresswomen, adding, “The post perpetuates the recent attacks by President Trump, promoting lies and racism to alienate immigrants, women, and people of color.” 

The post follows a string of public comments from Mr. Trump attacking the four congresswomen of color that began with a series of tweets. He told them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” In an interview with “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King last week, the congresswomen called the attacks a “distraction.”

During a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, Trump supporters began to chant “send her back” after the president mentioned Omar. Mr. Trump did not stop the chants. The next day he said he was “not happy” with it, but soon he seemed to reverse course again, praising the rally crowd and continuing to attack Omar.

Then on Sunday, he had more to say against the four freshmen lawmakers. “I don’t believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country. They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said,” he tweeted.


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