GOP Candidate Won't Delete Commenter's Facebook "Wish" That Planned Parenthood Facilities Be Blown Up

Two sort-of prominent Colorado Republicans are apparently refusing to delete offensive comments on their Facebook pages.

Here are the comments, written by commenters on the Facebook pages of State Rep. Stephen Humphrey (R-Severence) and Denver congressional candidate Casper Stockham.

In response to an article, posted by Humphrey on his Facebook page, in which Democratic House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) criticizes anti-choice "ideologues," one commenter, Daniel Lanotte, wrote, "Just think where we would be now if Speaker Hullinghorst's mother had chosen the Speaker's solution."

A comment on Stockham's Facebook page, written in response to an article with the headline,"Breaking: Grand Jury Indicts pro-life investigator behind baby parts video; clears Planned Parenthood," reads, "Who the hell is this judge that determined this? I'm so angry at Planned Parenthood right now. I wish someone would just blow up their facilities."

Stockham tells me he doesn't have time to delete "stupid" stuff from his Facebook page, though he did have time to write comments in the same thread where the blow-up-Planned-Parenthood wish appears.

Humphrey, who introduced a bill last month in the legislature banning all abortion in Colorado, even for rape and incest, hasn't deleted the Hullinghorst insult, since I told him about it in a voice mail Thursday. (But the commenter himself, David Lanotte, says he was intending only to express his opposition to abortion, not insult Hullinghorst. Lanotte said, "I was not saying that I wish she were aborted.")

For an RH Reality Check post on the topic today, I asked an expert whether politicians and candidates are responsible for such comments on their Facebook pages. An this has relevance for reporters covering these types of issues.

"When you look at the sheer volume of what people put on Facebook, it's unrealistic to expect staff or candidates to keep up with it," said Boise State Associate Professor  Justin Vaughn, author of Controlling the Message: New Media in American Political Campaigns. "They might be getting thousands of comments. Unless we know there's active support, we should be cautious about inferring that inaction means tacit support."

But Vaughn said the expectation could be different if a politician knows about the comment or actively promotes it, by retweeting a tweet on Twitter or 'liking' a post on Facebook."

"If the campaign is made aware of an offensive comment and refuses to take action, that's another story," said Vaughn.

Vaughn said there could be a political expectation that a candidate will use "certain moments to communicate with the electorate about the limits of political discourse."

He pointed to a 2008 presidential debate when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) corrected a questioner's assertion that then Sen. Barack Obama was a  Sen. Barack Obama was a untrustworthy Arab.