A Republican candidate for county sheriff in Michigan joked about shooting a gay couple after spotting them at a wedding.
Terry King, who is running for the Republican nomination in Alpena County, sent texts in a family group chat joking about needing his gun after his daughter asked if he was in “Homoland.”
The texts were sent from King’s work phone in October 2013, while he was serving as undersheriff, and were published recently after a Freedom of Information request from a former member of his opponent’s campaign.
While attending a wedding, King texted an image of a woman whose dress was held together by a safety pin with his daughter, Kimberley.
Kimberley replied by saying, “Where the heck are you??? Homoland???”
King responded with an image of the two men discreetly holding hands, writing, “THESE guys are holding hands, where is my fricken gun.”
“They kiss and stuff!” Kimberley responded. “Ew.”
“Bang bang,” King replied.
The texts, which were sent from a county-owned phone, were obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Bob Reid, former campaign chair for King’s Republican opponent and current sheriff, Steve Kieliszewski.
Kieliszewski is also King’s former boss, with the Detroit Free Press reporting that King resigned last year after numerous allegations of impropriety. Kieliszewski reportedly told King to resign or be fired.
Reid published the text exchange on the website TheTruthAboutTerryKing.com, and told Fox affiliate WBKB that King sent the messages to both his wife and daughter.
“It paints a different picture because it makes you think, wait a minute, he’s so comfortable with his hatred, that he shares it with his immediate family,” Reid said.
Kieliszewski distanced himself from Reid after the information was published, with Reid stepping down from his position as Kieliszewski’s campaign chair.
However, Kieliszewski told Detroit Free Press that King’s texts were “horrible,” and that the sheriff should represent all residents, including LGBTQ people.
“It was just most concerning — most concerning and extremely disappointing,” Kieliszewski said. “[I was] shocked when I looked at that. It’s like — what the hell are you thinking? What are you doing? These are people, for God’s sakes.”
King indirectly responded to the controversy in a campaign video on Facebook, accusing Kieliszewski of “dirty” politics.
“We need a strong leader that will not hide behind others,” he said. “I will be a sheriff that will focus on change and what can be done to correct the ignorance in our community, including mine.”
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