- By Tyler Estep The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Joe Briggs says he isn’t anti-Semitic — just anti-Israel.
And the Suwanee City Council candidate finds it strange that a series of controversial tweets he wrote about Jews have come to light just a few days before next week’s election.
“I’m absolutely not racist in the very least,” Briggs said.
Briggs, a 59-year-old engineer and political newcomer, defended this week a string of tweets he wrote over the last year-plus.
The posts are critical of Israel’s government and its role in American affairs — and they also compare Jews to Nazis, refer to Zionists as “cockroaches” and call American slavery “cheap labor to big business.”
“CNN is run by white supremacists,” Briggs tweeted in August, in response to the TV network firing analyst Jeffrey Lord. Lord’s tweet included the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil!” in response to people seeking to have Fox commentator Sean Hannity removed from the network.
In the same tweet Briggs wrote : “zionists in Israel far worse than anything described in Mein Kampf. Get over it.”
“Mein Kampf” is the 1925 book in which Adolf Hitler describes his political and social ideologies.
“Get the Jews out of the White House and out of POTUS’ ear,” Briggs wrote in a tweet from September that referenced the U.S. weighing a more “aggressive” approach in Iran.
Two days later, with an inspiration that was unclear: “At least the Nazis assimilated and contributed to US society.”
A few days after that: “The problem is that Jews don’t care about racism — because they are racist. They only care about racism directed towards them. Square that.”
Briggs’ tweets, which he confirmed are authentic, are now “protected” and viewable only to approved followers. They were brought to light this week when the wife of current Suwanee City Council member Dick Goodman, who is Jewish, wrote a lengthy post in the online community NextDoor.
Written just a week or so before the city’s Nov. 7 election, Louise Goodman’s post referenced Briggs social media activity as well as his online review of “Mein Kampf” in which Briggs referred to Hitler as “a patriot.”
“Is this the kind of person you want representing you and the city of Suwanee?” Louise Goodman wrote. Reached through her husband, she declined to comment further.
Briggs, an engineer, is not running against Dick Goodman but against Post 4 incumbent Beth Hilscher. He has campaigned on a platform of stopping what he calls Suwanee’s “over-development.”
He believes his social media activity — which he repeatedly defended as anti-Israel and not anti-Semitic — is surfacing now because that message is gaining traction.
“The current board has failed to take the number of kids and cars into consideration when zoning and allowing variances, and we are steeped in traffic, our schools have overflowed into trailers, and our kids don’t have enough practice fields to play ball,” Briggs wrote in a lengthy email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday. “So someone has unscrupulously dug up the ultimate ‘antisemitic’ dirt on me in order to stop the discussion. I hope that the voters of Suwanee are above it.”
Dov Wilker, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta office, called Briggs’ comments “severely offensive and insulting.”
“Especially any comment about Jews as bugs or cockroaches is an indication, it’s classic anti-Zionist trope,” Wilker said. “ ... The notion that, ‘I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m just anti-Israel,’ it doesn’t fly anymore. [Briggs] may not be racist, but he’s definitely anti-Semitic.”
Briggs is merely the latest in a series of candidates or officials in Gwinnett County to raise eyebrows with social media this year.
Just over a week ago, Facebook posts by Peachtree Corners City Council candidate Luke Crawford drew public criticism from Gwinnett’s Democratic Party and others. Crawford, 24, defended the posts, which said “violence is golden” in referenced guns and included apparent anti-Islamic sentiments.
In August, part-time Gwinnett magistrate judge and former Grayson mayor Jim Hinkle resigned after The AJC reported on Facebook posts in which he referred to those protesting Confederate monuments as “snowflakes” and compared them to terrorists.
Gwinnett County Commissioner Tommy Hunter created months-long backlash — and triggered an ethics investigation and public reprimand — with his own social media exploits. In January, he wrote a Facebook post calling U.S. Rep. John Lewis a “racist pig.”
The post also referred to Democrats as “Demonrats” and a “bunch of idiots.”
In other Gwinnett news: