A Fairfield state representative and town councilor apologized Friday for a Facebook post in which he copied a chain email that contained anti-Muslim remarks.

John Picchiotti said he only read the top portion of the email and didn’t realize it contained anti-Muslim language at the bottom when he posted it to his Facebook page Thursday night. After a liberal blogger reported on the Facebook post Friday, Picchiotti said he realized his error and deleted the post.

He posted an apology on his Facebook page late Friday afternoon.

“It was a stupid chain email. I thought it was praise on Catholics, and I didn’t bother reading the last paragraphs,” Picchiotti said in an interview Friday. “It was totally stupid, asinine. It was just pure stupidity on my part. I don’t have anything against Muslims.”

Picchiotti, 72, is a retired businessman who represents Fairfield, Mercer and Smithfield as a Republican in the Maine House of Representatives. He was elected to the Fairfield Town Council in 2012 and is up for council re-election Tuesday.

The email Picchiotti copied onto his Facebook page is about 11 paragraphs long and apparently originated in a forum on the website White Pride World Wide. The original poster on that site said he received it in an email.

The post starts off by lauding the Catholic Church for the creation of hospitals, schools and charitable endeavors and then criticizes “the new Obama Health Mandate” and urges people to vote in 2016 to elect people “who will respect all Christians, and all Religions with the exception of Islam.”

The text goes on to criticize “Muslim heritage in America” in about the eighth paragraph, questioning the religion’s contributions to American society and asking, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do much of anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”

Liberal blogger Mike Tipping reported on Picchiotti’s Facebook post Friday, tying the incident to one from earlier this year in which Sen. Michael Willette, R-Presque Isle, apologized for “bigoted, racist remarks” on his Facebook page and stepped down as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee.

Picchiotti, in a statement released by House Republicans and posted on his Facebook page late Friday afternoon, apologized “for the offensive post.”

“As soon as I was made aware of the anti-Muslim sentiments in the second half of the post I immediately deleted it,” he said in the statement. “It was an oversight on my part and I apologize for the offensive nature of the message and I in no way share those beliefs about the Muslim faith. I will be making no further comments on this issue.”

In a statement, House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, said it’s “incredibly frustrating to hear such hatred and bigotry from a state lawmaker” and “I don’t think it’s what voters expect from their elected leaders.

“Unfortunately, this has become a norm in rhetoric from Republican leaders nationally and some here even in Maine,” Eves said in the statement. “Rep. Picchiotti is ultimately accountable to his constituents in Fairfield, Mercer and Smithfield, but this reflects poorly on all of us.”

Picchiotti said he called Republican Party leadership Friday to explain what had happened and how it was a mistake, though indicated that the issue had been inflamed because of politics.

“It was a post and unfortunately, I’m a public figure so to speak, and plus he (Tipping) is very far left,” Picchiotti said in the interview. “I understand what they’re doing; it’s strictly a political thing.”

Despite Picchiotti’s apology, Democrats pounced on the post. 

House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, said in a statement that it’s “beyond the pale for an elected member of this Legislature to single out a faith as fair game for discrimination.”

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