Former village commissioner Thomas Mannix said he did not create a “Jihad Squad” image posted to the Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association (RCCA) Facebook page on July 19.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I think the type of political discourse we have in this country has gotten off on the wrong track,” Mannix said, in response to those who called the post racist and discriminatory toward Muslims.
The image pictured Democratic Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. They are all women of color who have been nicknamed “the squad” over their shared progressive viewpoints.
“Political jihad is their game,” the Facebook post read. “If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re racist.”
The image featured a logo from the Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association.
Some observers speculated it was created by American Strategies — a political consulting firm owned by Mannix, a Forest Park resident and former village commissioner — since the GOP organization had paid American Strategies for advertising in the past.
In November 2018, the Illinois Republican County Chairman’s Association paid a combined $5,131 for advertising and graphic design services by American Strategies, according to state campaign finance records. In June 2019, the Republican group paid another $250 for a “subscription” to American Strategies’ services, according to filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Mannix said American Strategies built the GOP group’s website last May, and that the group recently added a plug-in to the website, which accounts for all of the money. He said he found out about the Facebook post on Sunday — someone called him about it; he said he does not remember who — and that he does not know who designed the image or where they got it from.
Mannix said American Strategies “absolutely [did] not” create the post, and called the question of his involvement a complete “non-story.”
Mark Shaw, chairman of the Illinois Republic County Chairman’s Association, likewise denied that Mannix was involved.
“Neither Tom Mannix nor anyone associated with, employed by, or subcontracted by, American Strategies created, authored, authorized, or approved the image which was posted on the RCCA Facebook page, apparently on Friday night, regarding the four Democratic U.S. Representatives,” Shaw said in a statement to the Review.
“American Strategies is not a legal or media representative of the RCCA.”
In a separate comment posted on the RCCA Facebook page, Shaw apologized for the “unauthorized posting,” calling it an “unfortunate distraction from the serious debate surrounding the policies advocated by these four socialist members of the United States House of Representatives.” He added that the Republican Party’s opposition toward these women and their policies has nothing to do with their races or religion.
This wouldn’t be the first time Mannix’s alleged social media activity has impacted his political career.
In April 2018, Mannix announced he would not seek re-election for village commissioner after insulting a group of residents on Facebook. Nearly all of the residents he criticized were members of the political action committee that successfully lobbied for a public vote on video gaming, which is now outlawed in Forest Park. Mannix supported keeping electronic gambling in the village as a way to generate revenue. Several residents called for him to recuse himself on officially voting on the practice — or the legal battle to get a vote on the topic — since he is a business partner with a bar manager who had video gaming machines in his establishment.
Mannix said resident bullying — and cries of corruption — over his relationship with the Healy’s Westside manager inspired him to post a controversial screed on Facebook.
In the Facebook post, Mannix charged that Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming’s leader was unemployed, his veterinarian wife would “hurt his dog,” threatened to sue another resident for libel, charged that a husband and wife were organizing political activity on the taxpayer’s dime, and more.
He eventually backtracked on his comments, calling his tone “slightly harsh” to the Review.