A profanity-laced message sent out on a state Department of Health and Environmental Control Twitter account Wednesday blasted President Donald Trump, calling him a “tool” and referencing the recent fatal shooting of 17 people at a Florida high school.
Some South Carolina legislators, expressing outrage, called for DHEC to discipline or fire anyone who sent out the message.
“My goodness gracious,” state Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield, said upon learning of the tweet. “I’m shocked. If anyone who works in state government had that little respect for both the office of president and a tragic situation involving the death of children and teachers in Florida, it saddens me.”
DHEC took down the tweet, apologized and said it is investigating to determine whether an employee tweeted the message or if the agency’s Twitter account was hacked.
Spokesman Tim Kelly said no more than a dozen DHEC employees should have access to the account. The account’s password has been changed since the tweet, he said.
“I don’t believe anybody from DHEC tweeted it out,” Kelly said Wednesday night. “We are investigating to see what we can find out.”
The tweet, posted at 5:30 p.m., said “What a (expletive) tool the president of the United States is.” The hashtag “ParklandStudentsSpeak” was attached to the tweet. A high school in Parkland, Fla. was the scene of a tragic shooting last week that has reignited the national debate over gun control. Trump has been a critic of gun control, citing 2nd Amendment rights.
Fanning and Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Richland, said the incident brings DHEC’s social media controls into question.
“If it was hacked, it shows the vulnerability of state government that could allow someone to hack into the system and use a government platform so easily,” Fanning said.
Finlay and fellow Republican Reps. Joshua Putnam of Anderson and Rep. Garry Smith of Greenville called for disciplinary action, including firing, if an employee was involved. If not, DHEC has plenty of questions to answer, Finlay said. Twitter accounts are important to help inform the public of issues that could affect health or the environment, Finlay said.
“What if somebody said there was a bomb threat or something?” Finlay asked. “What if this Tweet had said there is an industrial gas leak and hundreds of people were scared and tried to evacuate? That’s the real problem.”
Putnam sent a message on his own Twitter account that he believes there will be an opening for a new social media manager at DHEC. He later questioned whether a DHEC employee posted the tweet on the agency’s official account by mistake, meaning instead to post on a personal account.
“It’s awfully unfortunate and awfully uncalled for,” Putnam said. “If this was a DHEC employee, they’d have to be let go. Obviously, it’s bad judgment. If you did that in a private business, you’d be out in a couple of minutes. It might have been a mistake, but I have questions about why you would be posting that on your personal page.”
Smith said he had not heard about the tweet until informed by The State, but state agencies have no place criticizing political leaders on official department Twitter accounts.