Former Lee County Commissioner Kirk Smith, who is on November’s ballot again after losing his re-election bid in 2016, wrote in a Facebook thread Wednesday morning that local students who participated in a nationwide walkout in protest of recent school shootings were “tools” of various “ANTI-FREEDOM” groups or individuals ranging from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the Black Lives Matter movement:
Smith’s caps lock-ridden comment was posted in a thread on the North Carolina Truthseekers Facebook group, a right wing meme page moderated by a handful of local Republicans.
Smith – and his penchant for bizarre name calling – has been a familiar figure to many Lee Countians for the better part of two decades. Well known even before the social media age for his reams of conspiratorial letters to the Sanford Herald (subscription required) disparaging homosexuals, something called “eco-Marxists,” the United Nations, and more, he served an incomplete, appointed term on the Lee County Board of Commissioners in the late 2000s and was later elected to a full term in 2012.
That term proved controversial on several fronts, including his suggestion that low income students be fed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as a cost-saving measure, a letter calling an anti-fracking activist a communist (subscription required), and a dustup in which he made false allegations in a letter to the editor and blamed county staff for his mistake. He went on to finish last out of six candidates in his 2016 campaign, missing re-election by nearly 1,500 votes.
Now that he’s filed for re-election, Smith’s public statements should and will garner more scrutiny. We only gave it a hint of attention when he blamed parking problems at Lee County High School on “mostly poor minority students,” as he was at the time a private citizen, but while his wading into the current debate over school safety and mass shootings isn’t exactly a surprise, it’s worth noting because regardless of your position on gun control or any other issue, Smith’s statement belies a gross misunderstanding of the First Amendment he cites.
Indeed, one need not be able to name the five freedoms (speech, most notably) included therein to voice an opinion – any opinion, which Smith explicitly stated the students “should not be able to” do. There is no litmus test for exercising constitutional rights. The same goes for Kirk, of course. This isn’t a suggestion that students have rights and he doesn’t – it’s an examination of what he chooses to do with them. He could explain what he believes and why he believes it. Instead, he calls kids names and invents conspiracies.
His behavior provides a stark contrast with that of the students in question, one of whom told the Rant earlier today that he hoped his participation in the walkout would raise awareness of an issue over which he is rightfully scared. Kirk Smith proved a long time ago that he’s not fit to hold any public office anywhere. Let his latest words serve as an ample reminder.