Secretary of State Simon target of anti-Semitic online post

Secretary of State Steve Simon
Secretary of State Steve Simon, left, takes the oath of office in 2015.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon was the target of an anti-Semitic online post accusing him of plotting to steal the election from Donald Trump.

This comes at a time when anti-discrimination advocates have seen an increase in online hate speech aimed at politicians and journalists.

Simon said he stumbled upon the post on Craigslist late Monday night while scanning his news feed for election-related stories. The anonymous commenter referred to Simon with multiple disparaging terms, such as "Jew scum" and "Little Jew Fagot (sic)," and accused him of working to orchestrate a Democratic win for the state.

Representatives of Craigslist could not be reached for comment but the post has been taken down.

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"My first reaction was that it was horrible, ugly, hateful language and there's no place for language like that anywhere directed at anyone," Simon said.

Simon, who is Jewish, said it's the first time he's been hit by such a slur. But he quickly concluded that the comments do not represent what most Minnesotans think of him.

"Whoever posted this represents a tiny, fringe, minority of people and I just think we have to remember that," he said.

The state's top elections official added it's important to call out hateful speech, which some say is more common this election season.

"We're seeing an uptick in terms of the type of vitriol that is out there, especially on social media sites," said Lonnie Nasatir, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League's Upper Midwest chapter.

The group recently published an analysis of anti-Semitic Twitter postings directed at journalists during the 2016 campaign. The review found a significant increase in anti-Semitic tweets from January to July as coverage of the presidential campaign intensified.

"I think that's stoking fear and it's stoking people to kind of feel even more comfortable to espouse their hate online," Nasatir said. :Maybe more so than six months ago as we're getting to the home stretch of the election."

The other effect of the hate speech barrage Nasatir said is that it dulls people's reactions to it, and makes them more likely to be resigned to the idea that this could be what passes for public discourse.

He says people need to combat that possibility by going out of their way to talk up the good things that diversity brings to the country.

Simon agrees: "It's this balance of wanting to call out this language regardless of who it's directed against. But also not letting it take anyone sort of off track or off balance. It's certainly not going to do that to me."

The secretary of state said his No. 1 priority right now is ensuring the election he will oversee in a week runs smoothly.