Grosse Pointe Shores councilman under fire for social media posts

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Matthew Seely

Activists are calling on a Grosse Pointe Shores council member to resign after social media posts they say objectify women and joke about sexual assault allegations.

Progress Michigan, a government watchdog group, this week found posts Councilman Matthew Seely acknowledged that he posted.  One post, a meme shared on a “Michigan Trump Republicans” Facebook group, appears to mock sexual assault claims against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

The image shows a woman comforting another in tears beneath the caption, "I'm so sorry that bad man touched you inappropriately," followed by: "Let's wait 30 or 40 years… until he runs for office…against a Democrat." 

“This type of behavior cannot be tolerated by a public official," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. "It’s disgusting, dehumanizing, and it makes light of sexual assault and rape. This meme is an attack on survivors. Matthew Seely needs to step down immediately and publicly apologize for making jokes about such a serious crime."

Seely said his views have been misconstrued in a "smear campaign" and he plans to remain in the post. The memes, he said, were shared privately and represent political commentary.

Seely told The Detroit News that he will not resign and called the Progress Michigan outcry politically motivated and tied to his GOP work in Macomb County and unwavering support of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The group claiming the councilman does not take sexual assault allegations seriously is the "most dishonest, outright lie that could be told."

"I feel completely the opposite," he said. "The whole point of the meme is to say we’ve got to put an end to weaponizing sexual assault and rape for political purposes."

Progress Michigan also obtained screenshots of another meme Seely reportedly shared in March depicting a gun-toting woman with a message: "THE BULGE IN A CONSERVATIVE GIRLS PANTS IS A GUN. THE BULGE IN A LIBERAL GIRLS PANTS IS A PENIS."

A third meme the group claims Seely posted online showed a Bernie Sanders supporter staring at another woman's breasts in a "Make America Great Again" tank top.

 “Seely’s actions reinforce a culture that victimizes survivors even further and discourages them from coming forward to hold their assailants accountable,” Scott said. "We need public officials who take that matter seriously, not make jokes about it for political purposes.”

Michigan Republican Party spokeswoman Sarah Anderson on Wednesday said: "We don’t condone Mr. Seely’s posts."

Seely said his memes were shared in private Facebook pages users must be invited to. "I think all of us have a right to our political opinion. It’s guaranteed in the Bill of Rights."

Since Progress Michigan's call spread, Seely said online users have sent him threatening messages.

"I'm a volunteer on my City Council. All of them are in a non-paid capacity. We love our city," he said. "I've done nothing ever but been a reliable worker and want the best for our city."