Homophobic, Racist, Etc. Rhetoric From Springfield City Council Candidate?

homophobicSpringfield City Council candidate Christopher Pohner; Photo: Candidate's Facebook Page
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Xenophobic, Racist, Homophobic, Transphobic Invectives Reminiscent of Trump

By: Mike Givens*/TRT Columnist—

My jaw dropped when I first read it. I was sitting in my cubicle at work when I checked my Facebook messages and clicked on a link someone had sent me with the news story.

The social media and comment history of a candidate for Springfield City Council had been dug up by a western Massachusetts news outlet and I was stunned by the bigotry that unfolded. 

Christopher Pohner, a retired Springfield firefighter with 30 years of service to the city, is running for an At-Large seat on the City Council, but is facing calls to bow out of the race given a litany of bigoted comments he’s alleged to have made via social media and the comments section of the Springfield Republican website, known as MassLive

Prepare yourself, the comments he purportedly made are revolting. 

In March 2016, under the screen name “firebird,” Pohner allegedly referred to Springfield as “Mudville,” seemingly a commentary on the large number of black and brown residents of the city. 

In September 2016, reacting to a Republican piece on openly-gay Councilor Mike Fenton’s objection to Jersey barriers on two Springfield streets, Pohner joked, “what does fenton know about construction, outside of his favorite village people singer?”

In January 2017, on a Facebook thread about the Obamas, Pohner referred to former First Lady Michelle Obama as a “tranny” and went on to make a disgusting remark to a naysayer that managed to be sexist, homophobic, and horrifyingly graphic (the comment referred to “straight” being “normal,” described someone’s response as “pussy,” and finally went on to crassly make a joke about anal sex). 

Just as recently as May of 2018, Pohner would deride attempts to teach LGBTQ history in schools (he refers to the notion as educating kids on pornography), and ignorantly attacked legislation to provide transgender people legal protections in public settings, often referred to as “bathroom bills.” 

Western Mass. Politics and Insight (WMPI) has covered Pohner’s cringe-worthy social media commentary in depth and based on the research I’ve done, the City Council candidate has done his best not to take responsibility for his comments. He alleges that someone else wrote the posts and that his only crime was using a public computer that anyone had access to (the implication being that someone logged into his Facebook account and posed as him on the Republican’s website multiple times between 2015 and 2018 for the sole purpose of making bigoted comments). 

On Wednesday, October 16, the Western Mass. Area Labor Federation (WMALF) announced it had revoked its endorsement of Pohner. 

“Chris Pohner’s comments on social media are vile and indefensible and stand in stark opposition to our organizational values,” said Jeff Jones, the chair of WMALF. “His language is racist, homophobic, and transphobic, which makes them anti-worker. Pohner’s comments reflect the kind of rhetoric too often used to dehumanize and exploit working people and we, in the labor movement, must stand resolutely against hate speech that we know is used to divide us.” 

The unanimous decision to revoke the endorsement came after, “ … Pohner was contacted and verified the report in the Springfield Republican that the account on MassLive was his.”

The Springfield chapter of the NAACP also wrote an open letter declaring, ” … bigoted thought[s] and viewpoints are always the precursors to hateful and bigoted actions as the thought is always father to the deed.” 

I reached out to Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton, but he declined to speak to me for this column, noting that he does not comment on active candidates for the City Council.

 

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Pohner’s comments are monstrous and dehumanizing. I’ve never met the man before, but I can only imagine the type of person he must be if he can casually throw out such hateful rhetoric online. 

The evidence tying Pohner to his own Facebook comments, which apparently have been deleted, and his posts on the Republican’s website is overwhelming. Instead of taking responsibility for what he says, he’d rather blame an apocryphal person who “magically” logged into his accounts and “made” the statements on his behalf. 

What we have here is another clear case of a white man filled with anger, hatred, and venom towards those who are not like him, who is too cowardly to stand behind his beliefs in public. 

I feel anger at Pohner for the horrific things he said, but I equally feel sadness. 

I’m sad this man is so narrow-minded that he’s closed himself off to people who aren’t white, cisgender, conservative, and heterosexual. 

I’m sad that a man who thinks so poorly of Springfield—or as he calls it, “Mudville”—would now want to represent it as a city councilor.  

People grow, they evolve, but something tells me that Pohner is someone who will stay just the same. He’ll dodge questions about his social media posts; he’ll blame toxic comments on the web on someone else. He’ll continue to run for office and try to accumulate power because society has told him that it’s his right—his destiny—as a cisgender, heterosexual white male to hold power and be in control. 

Chris Pohner is no different than President Trump, in my opinion. The only major difference between the two is that Trump wears his ignorance like a badge of honor; Pohner keeps his badge tucked away under his bed at home. 

 

*A graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Mike Givens has been a social justice advocate for 11 years. During that time he’s worked on a range of initiatives aimed at uplifting populations impacted by injustice. An experienced media strategist and communications professional, Mike currently devotes his spare time to a number of vital issues including racial justice and socioeconomic equity.

 

News Coverage – Christopher Pohner

WesternMassNews.com