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 LewisKatherine Clark quietly eyes leadership ascent Democratic lawmaker says officials tried to keep her from migrant girls during facility tour Democratic outrage grows over conditions at border detention centers 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 TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates 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addition to the $5 million demand, the lawsuit requests the public reprimand that was posted on the county website be rescinded.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.