The chair of the Minneapolis DFL Party on Monday deleted a tweet mocking the death of former President Ronald Reagan, swiftly drawing a rebuke from the state Republican Party — as well as the DFL's own state chair.
Monday was the 19th anniversary of the 2004 death of Reagan, a Republican who served two terms in the 1980s, presided over a resurgence of American might during a pivotal period of the Cold War, and remains a revered figure today for many Americans.
Briana Rose Lee, chair of the Minneapolis DFL, marked the occasion with a 10:29 a.m. Twitter post that read: "19 years ago today Ronald Reagan did his one good deed for the world," followed by a heart emoji.
In addition to angry responses on Twitter, the tweet generated the following statement from David Hann, who chairs the state Republican Party:
"President Ronald Reagan was a great leader for our country and the world. Regardless of political affiliation, Americans honor the memory of our former and deceased presidents with respect for the office they held and the country they led.
"This low-rent rhetoric from the Minneapolis DFL chair, while not surprising, is just another sad example of the Democrats' campaign bluster about civility and decency being just that — nothing but empty rhetoric. We condemn the Minneapolis DFL Chair's sad statement and call on the Minnesota DFL Party to do the same."
Lee deleted the tweet a short time later. Responding to criticism of the Reagan post, she had also tweeted: "The pearl clutching from people who were chanting 'Hang Mike Pence' not too long ago is genuinely funny," a reference to the crowds attacking the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. That response was deleted as well.
Lee could not be reached for comment Monday. But in a statement, DFL Chair Ken Martin said her tweet about Reagan did not "reflect the values of the DFL Party."
"While there is nothing wrong with debating the policies and legacies of elected officials, mocking the passing of an American president is beyond the pale," Martin said. "We expect better of leaders within our party, and we will continue holding ourselves to the high standard that Minnesotans deserve."
Lee, who works in theater, film and TV, is a relative newcomer to party leadership. She ascended through DFL ranks during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been at the helm of the city party through a period that has seen no shortage of drama.
Acrimony over a dispute in a Minneapolis City Council race prompted Lee to seek an order of protection against candidate Victor Martinez. She found herself in the midst of the chaos that erupted at the 10th Ward endorsing convention last month, where she was working as a sergeant-at-arms. She is overseeing the resumption of the endorsing process.
Lee has previously worked on campaigns for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Monday's tweet was the latest in a long list of ill-conceived political statements on Twitter that date almost as far back as the platform's inception. The demands for denunciation, responses replete with whataboutism, and the ultimate consequences — or not — are part of a well-trodden path featuring stumbles by members of both parties.
Among the cringe-worthy playlist for Minnesota political tweets in the past decade are a racist tweet by a GOP volunteer in 2015 that resulted in the volunteer being fired; a DFL volunteer resigning in 2019 for a tweet suggesting that Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer's son, a Marine, would be murdering civilians in Iran; an apology by DFL state Rep. Ryan Winkler for his 2013 tweet calling U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is Black, "Uncle Thomas"; and an apology by Republican state Rep. Pat Garofalo for his racially loaded 2014 tweet suggesting the NBA was riddled with criminals.