Washington— Pressure mounted Tuesday on Dave Agema as more Republicans called for his ouster from their party leadership for inflammatory comments on gays and Muslims, including three members of Congress and two former state party chairs.
The latest call for his resignation came late Tuesday from U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who urged Agema to resign as Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman.
“Those who seek to be leaders must strive to be inclusive and respectful of others,” Miller said in a statement. “Anyone who presents themselves as a leader who takes the path of division or exclusion is not following the examples of Lincoln and Reagan and is not worthy of any position of leadership. Dave Agema has failed this test and should resign.”
The latest controversy came in part after Agema’s Jan. 9 distribution of an unsigned article on Facebook that attempts to slur Muslims by comparing their contributions to Catholics. “Even if you’re not Catholic, you may find this eye-opening,” Agema wrote Jan. 9.
Miller’s rebuke of Agema comes as Republicans are scheduled to gather in Washington today for the Republican National Committee’s three-day winter meeting. Agema, a former state representative from Grandville, was elected by state delegates in May 2012 to be one of three Michigan members on the national body that aims to get Republicans elected.
But a growing chorus of leading Republicans have said Agema has failed his duty by bringing division and derogatory attention to the party with his rhetoric.
U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, this week also called for Agema to resign his post. Earlier, former Michigan GOP Chairwoman Betsy DeVos, a longtime party leader, said the GOP cannot stand for Agema’s “intolerance and insensitivity.”
Joining her Tuesday was another former Michigan GOP chairman, Saul Anuzis, who said Agema has become an “unnecessary distraction.”
“I hope he would do the right thing for the party,” said Anuzis, who lost to Agema for the RNC post. “He has to put his personal preferences aside, his ego aside. He was elected to be helpful and do the right thing for the party.
“Given the circumstances — right or wrong, by mistake or on purpose, regardless of the intention — what he has done is put the party in a bad position and he’s hurting the party and the candidates. If he cared about the party and the conservative movement, the best thing he could do is resign and let everybody move on.”
Agema first drew fire from the party last March when he posted an article on his Facebook page about the “filthy lifestyle” of homosexuals that contained a string of claims about gay promiscuity and child molestation. Republican activists launched a statewide campaign for Agema to resign, but the outspoken conservative stood by his posting and called the effort to oust him “a joke.” The article later was deleted.
In December, Agema implied at a Berrien County GOP holiday reception that gay people were gaming the health care system to get coverage because they are dying of AIDS. Again, those comments sparked another movement within the party for his resignation.
This month, Agema added another comment to his Facebook page that included: “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”
Agema fought back Sunday by attempting to distance himself from some of the anti-gay and anti-Muslim information he has promoted on social media, saying on his Facebook page that he sometimes links to articles “to encourage discourse.”
He did not respond Monday or Tuesday to requests for comment.
Upton sparked the congressional calls for resignation when said he could no longer “stand idly by.”
“That’s not me and that’s not where the Republican Party should be either,” Upton said in an interview that aired Tuesday on WSJM radio in southwest Michigan. “I was glad to see Betsy DeVos really challenged him.”
Amash, a libertarian Republican who often bucks the establishment, said Tuesday afternoon Agema has become a distraction.
“Defending civil liberties is at the heart of the Republican Party and our Constitution,” Amash said in a statement. “As I’ve demonstrated with my words and record, I am trying to grow a new generation of Republicans that includes more gays and lesbians, racial-ethnic minorities, women and young people.
“Dave’s approach has become a distraction for those of us who are standing up to the political establishment, whose push for bigger government, more corporate welfare, and less individual liberty have hurt our party. I hope Dave will do the right thing for the next generation of conservatives and step down. And I hope that the politicians who are criticizing Dave will stand with me in protecting civil liberties with their votes and actions, not just their rhetoric.”