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Republican Leaders Face Calls To Resign Over Viral Video of Biden Effigy Beating

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Kansas GOP Mike Brown at a basketball game
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Two top Kansas Republican Party officials are facing internal calls to resign because of a viral online video. The video captured people at a fundraiser beating a mannequin wearing a mask of Joe Biden. 

The two officials in question are Mike Brown, the Kansas GOP’s state chair, and Maria Holiday, the party leader in Johnson County in the Kansas City area. 

The two kept themselves far from the display at a Friday evening fundraiser for the county party. In a Facebook post, the state GOP blamed an outside vendor who rented space at the event to promote a martial arts school.

The calls for their resignations started over the weekend with Brown’s predecessor, Mike Kuckelman, a Kansas City attorney. Then, it quickly led to bipartisan condemnations amid widespread news coverage. 

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The state GOP thinks Kuckelman is responsible for creating “a false narrative” and dividing the party. Brown and Kuckelman’s conflict reflects the national GOP split between Trump’s loyal supporters and its more establishment wing, including former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. 

Kuckelman backed McDaniel’s reelection in 2022, but Brown wanted her out. Trump now fully controls the RNC through leaders he carefully selected. 

The dispute is also notable because the fundraiser took place in Johnson County, the state’s most populous county, where 20% of Kansas voters live. 

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The county, which includes Kansas City suburbs, has become bluer since Trump was elected president in 2016. It played a key role in Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s victories in 2018 and 2022. It has also become an area where GOP statewide candidates struggle to win.

“This disgusting visualization of violence went viral. This doesn’t just go away,” Kuckelman said on Tuesday. “This does not help win independent and soft Republican voters.”

The Friday fundraiser featured 1970s rocker Ted Nugent. He is famous for his support of gun rights, hard-right political views, and support for Trump. Tickets ranged from $90 for students to $300 for premier seats. 

The mannequin with the Biden mask also wore a “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirt, a slogan that’s become conservative code for a vulgar insult aimed at Biden.

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The incident in Kansas also follows Trump’s campaign rhetoric becoming more violent. Last fall, he suggested that shoplifters be immediately shot and called his opponents “lowlifes.” 

He even threatened news organizations and later told a crowd in Iowa that he wouldn’t be a dictator “except for Day 1.” Governor Kelly believes that the video of the Biden effigy is proof that Americans need to “reverse course” and make political disagreements less contentious.

“It’s indicative of how low we’ve gone in political discourse,” she said in a brief interview at the Statehouse.

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Kansas House Speaker Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, has condemned all political violence. He believes it is important for people to employ their good judgment when elected officials in both parties have faced threats across the U.S. 

“What may seem like a joke for many will be seen by some as an expansion of acceptable behavior with potentially tragic consequences,” Hawkins said in a statement Tuesday.

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, another Wichita-area Republican, added that “tasteless displays of violence” will not lure voters.

He said, “We should be focused on promoting conservative ideas, electing Republicans, and defeating Joe Biden at the ballot box.” 

In a Facebook post from Monday evening, the Johnson County GOP described the Biden mask on the mannequin as “a brief incident.”

His statement reads, “The mask was regrettable and removed. No one collected or solicited any funds or donations in exchange for hitting the training device.”

The Kansas GOP said in a statement over the weekend that no one from its staff was at the event. It also called Kuckelman “A disgruntled former member of the state party.”

“It’s unfortunate the events took place, and even more so, the former state party member created a false narrative in order to spew rhetoric and capitalize on continued attempts to divide the party,” the statement reads.

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However, Kuckelman thinks blaming the vendor is “disingenuous.” Especially because the party controlled the event and decided which vendors were there. 

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