GRANDVILLE, Mich. — It’s the controversy that republicans are discussing across West Michigan.
The former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Betsy DeVos, calling on fellow West Michigan Republican Dave Agema to step down from the Republican National Committee due to some of the comments he’s made about homosexuals and Muslims.
Agema was a state representative from 2007 through 2012. He was elected as the National Committeeman from Michigan in May 2012.
Political experts like Don Zinman of Grand Valley State University say it’s a matter of image.
“It’s certainly embarrassing,” said Zinman, associate professor of political science. “Certainly there’s no question that the Republican Party wants to present a more tolerant posture as it concerns their relationship with LGBT Americans and immigrants and younger voters.”
Agema has always been outspoken on his views about homosexuality as evidenced in a speech he gave for Michigan’s CPAC in the spring of 2013.
In it he said, “I have a dream that we get a president that doesn’t glorify gay NFL players.”
The comments continued on Facebook where he posted a number of statements over the past few months.
“Well, it seems I’m in good company, the LGBT community is now going after Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty,” Agema said.
He also posted a link to an anti-gay article in the past which said in-part, “part of the homosexual agenda is to get the public to affirm their filthy lifestyle, as one homosexual admitted….”
There was also a post online that seemed to support the anti-gay policies in Russia that are being discussed in advance of the Olympics.
The post that was attributed to Agema said, “Read their law. Common sense in Russia!”
Agema has also spoken out about terrorism and the Muslim heritage, saying in a previous speech, “My goal is to stop terrorism. I really don’t like it. Quite frankly, I shouldn’t say this, but it’s actually true. Not every Muslim is a terrorist but most terrorists are Muslim.”
The comments eventually captured the attention of Betsy DeVos, a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
This week, she has come out against the Agema’s comments, saying, “He has damaged his position and his party. He reflects badly on Republicans and on Michigan… I couldn`t stand by and hold my tongue.”
Political Consultant and grass-roots Republican activist Dennis Lennox has also gathered around 200 signatures, creating a petition to try to get Agema removed from his position with the RNC.
He said there was growing resentment and backlash from party members.
“Unfortunately one of my friends until last week, he was the leader of the National Gay Republicans organization, and he actually quit the Republican party over this,” Lennox said. “We’re losing people.”
When we stopped by Agema’s home to ask if he would like to talk about the recent issues, a woman answered the door but quickly slammed it shut when we said we were from FOX 17.
Agema did seem to respond to the recent controversy on Facebook, saying,
” Just got back from an 8 day out of the country vacation scheduled this past summer.”
“While I was gone it seems the same people are feeding half truths to the news within the GOP, stirring up divisiveness.”
“I stand on the same issues I always have, God Family and country. There are times I have posted or linked an article to encourage discourse. This does not constitute endorsement of that position.”
There are supporters on Agema’s Facebook page that are posting feverishly as well.
“Dave Agema is considered a leader in the RNC conservative caucus where there used to only be a handful of members in this caucus, They are now over 100,’ said David Wells
“I hope you do not give in to some of the calls out there (e.g. – Betsy DeVos) to resign your position,” said Tyler Wagenmaker
Zinman said any fallout remains to be seen.
“The fallout could be positive or negative actually. If the party leadership is seen in a position of standing against anti-gay or anti-Muslim remarks, then that could actually be a positive thing. If the comments that Mr. Agema made were seen as outside of the mainstream of the Republican party, then voters could see that these were just the comments of one rogue party member who’s been disavowed by the national party in the same way other Democrats and Republicans who’ve made controversial remarks have been marginalized by the party establishment,” said Zinman. “The DeVos family is the part of the party establishment.”
“I do think they still carry a lot of weight in the Michigan party and at some degree at the national level” Zinman added.