In response to a tweet comparing Gov. Scott Walker to an infamous Milwaukee-area serial killer, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin dropped an official from his spokesperson position Monday.
Graeme Zielinski, who worked as party spokesperson for three years, published three tweets Friday comparing Walker to Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 people.
In one tweet, Zielinski said, “@GovWalker had better lawyers than Jeffrey Dahmer in beating the rap. Clear that he committed crimes,” which was posted after Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm officially closed the John Doe probe, an investigation into Walker’s offer when he served as Milwaukee County executive.
Zielinski has since deleted the tweets and posted two apology tweets to Walker and to the victims of Dahmer.
Interim DPW spokesperson Melissa Baldauff confirmed a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report on Zielinski’s removal on Monday. She added her organization would not provide any other comment on the matter and directed further questions to the Journal Sentinel’s story.
In that article, a source close to the DPW said Zielinski will maintain employment with the party as a “media adviser,” but will no longer be allowed to post on Twitter. According to the Sentinel report, the source said Zielinski agreed to that stipulation and is aware of his mistakes.
The party source also told the paper Zielinski was removed because of a “culmination of stuff.”
Aside from losing his position as spokesperson, the Sentinel noted party leaders also suspended Zielinski’s pay for a week.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe criticized Zielinski’s remarks, calling them “immature and irresponsible.” He said there is no question those comments were the “triggering event” leading to DPW’s removal of its spokesperson.
“He has always been a flamboyant and sometimes a pretty edgy commentator, but I think this clearly was over the top,” McCabe said.
McCabe added it sounds as if Zielinski has lost his job as DPW spokesperson permanently.
The comparison was so bizarre the public likely does not know why Zielinski posted the tweets, McCabe said. People may have differences of opinion about the results of the John Doe investigation, but he said he does not know what Zielinski was thinking by suggesting Walker had better lawyers than Dahmer.
“I don’t see what purpose those tweets served,” McCabe said. “I think the only thing they resulted in was the loss of employment by the author. I don’t think anything was gained by it. They certainly weren’t illuminating or educating remarks.”
Despite widespread disapproval for Zielinski’s tweets, a Cornell law school professor published a post on the blog “Legal Insurrection” Monday titled “WI Dems should have kept Graeme Zielinski as spokesperson.”
William Jacobson, an associate clinical professor and director of the Securities Law Clinic at the Cornell Law School, said Zielinski’s tweet was “obviously not a fair comparison,” but may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
However, Jacobson said the tweet was not uncharacteristic of comments Zielinski has been making the past two year or two.
“In no way am I defending what Zielinski said,” Jacobson said. “I just think the Democratic Party has to be more consistent.”
Zielinski was not available for comment.