Georgia commissioner seeking $5M in damages after being punished for calling John Lewis a 'racist pig'

Georgia commissioner seeking $5M in damages after being punished for calling John Lewis a 'racist pig'
© Stefani Reynolds

A Georgia county commissioner is filing a lawsuit seeking $5 million in damages after he was officially punished for calling Rep. John LewisJohn LewisThe 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Detroit police chief calls Tlaib facial recognization idea 'racist' Ossoff raises 0k in first three weeks of Senate bid, campaign says MORE (D-Ga.) a “racist pig.”

Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter filed the federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta last week alleging arguing his punishment in June 2017 violated his First Amendment right to free speech, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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“Chilling of 1st Amendment political speech by government officials to negate criticism of other elected government officials … amounts to an overbroad ‘political correctness’ gag order,” Dwight Thomas, Hunter’s attorney, wrote in the suit.

Hunter, in a 2017 Facebook post over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend that went viral, called Lewis a “racist pig” after the civil rights icon and longtime lawmaker openly questioned the legitimacy of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE’s election victory.

The Journal-Constitution previously reported on other controversial Facebook posts of Hunter's, including ones where he referred to Democrats as “Demonrats,” “libtards” and “a bunch of idiots.”

Though the post about Lewis drew widespread backlash and public criticism, Hunter did not step down and remains a county commissioner.

He was given a public reprimand by the commissioner's board, citing a “pattern of behavior that fails to adequately consider the good of the county.” 

Hunter’s federal lawsuit claims the public reprimand humiliated him and caused “continued economic injury.”

In addition to the $5 million demand, the lawsuit requests the public reprimand that was posted on the county website be rescinded.

A Gwinnett County spokesman declined to comment to the local paper on the pending litigation. The lawsuit names the county and the four commissioners serving at the time of Hunter's reprimand as defendants.

The Hill has reached out to the Gwinnett County board for comment.