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Ricketts responds to alleged hate speech by former staffer

Posted at 12:01 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 18:24:59-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Governor Pete Ricketts has released a statement after an article was published, showing alleged evidence of "anti-Semitic statements and other hateful statements" by a former staffer.

Ricketts said, “I am shocked and horrified to learn that this former staffer made these statements and I had no idea he harbored these feelings. He never expressed these views to me. I condemn these statements and this hateful worldview, which do not reflect my beliefs or the beliefs of Nebraskans.”

The staffer, 22-year-old Bennet Bressman of Omaha, was a paid field staff member on the Governor's reelection campaign for a period of seven months according to the Governor's office. Before that he served as a volunteer on the campaign. The article includes a number of hateful statements which were said to have come from a white nationalist YouTube chat group.

Ricketts also said:

“I unequivocally denounce his hate-filled views towards Jewish people, LGBT people, African Americans, journalists, women, and others. I am particularly concerned about his anti-Semitic statements. Anti-Semitism has no place in society no matter where it hides. The State of Nebraska stands with Israel and has been a home to thousands of Jewish families for generations. We are only a generation removed from World War II, during which millions of Jews who were killed because of their heritage and 400,000 American soldiers died to stamp out Nazism and its anti-Semitic ideology. We will continue to make this state a welcoming place for the Jewish faith and work with faith leaders to root out anti-Semitism wherever it may be.”

Bressman is a student at UNL. The university has issued a statement regarding the comments:

"We are aware of racist, bigoted and hateful comments attributed to at UNL student from a white supremacist chat room. Racism and bigotry in any form are repugnant and are absolutely contrary to our UNL values. The UNL Police Department is evaluating this. The safety of our university is paramount. Any concerns about safety are taken seriously, and we will take all appropriate action based on the identification of a potential threat."

The Anti-Defamation League has released the following statment:

It is deeply disturbing that an individual who worked for the Governor’s campaign and supervised several dozen people engaged in this odious online behavior. Such hateful conduct is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable, particularly for someone working to reelect the State’s chief executive, who has a constitutional duty to treat all citizens equally.

ADL appreciates the Governor’s swift condemnation of these posts and believes that this incident is a teachable moment for Nebraska. It should be the impetus for the Governor and legislature to enact legislation that protects all Nebraskans from bias-motivated conduct including, a measure to make our hate crime law comprehensive and a bill providing state-wide, anti-discrimination protections to all. While Mr. Bressman issued an apology, it misses the point. His words matter whether or not he intended to act on them. Such repeated, hateful rhetoric could be inspiration for discrimination or criminal acts by others.

News 3 Now Senior Reporter Jake Wasikowski is working on more reaction to this story. Look for his story on our 6 pm newscast.

You can find the exposé on Bressman here.