THUMBS DOWN to Rep. John Picchiotti, R-Fairfield, who shared bigoted and anti-Muslim posts on his Facebook page, then misrepresented his social media history, and downplayed criticism, in a half-baked apology.

Last week, Picchiotti copied to his Facebook page an email that disparaged American Muslims and their commitment to the country. The email ended by asking, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do much of anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”

When confronted, Picchiotti said he hadn’t read the entire 11-paragraph post, just the beginning, which praises the Catholic Church. He said he deleted the post as soon as he was made aware of the additional content, and then blamed Mike Tipping, the progressive activist who first reported the post, for going after him.

“I understand what they’re doing; it’s strictly a political thing,” he said.

But Picchiotti’s Facebook history tells a much different story. It shows he has shared a series of racist, xenophobic posts from fringe online groups, at least nine since July, according to a subsequent report by Tipping.

The initial post that got Picchiotti in trouble wasn’t a mistake, but part of a pattern, and he should have owned up to it.

He either believes the nonsense perpetuated by these posts, or he shares them to show some sort of solidarity with those who do. It’s hard to say which is worse.

These posts come from the worst corner of the Internet, and play to people’s worst impulses. They are hateful and dehumanizing, deceptive and inflammatory, and they have no place in the public discourse.

Yet a small but loud segment of the Republican Party feeds off these posts and their related conspiracies, and the party’s elected officials are too often eager to play along.

By acknowledging and sharing these posts, Picchiotti granted legitimacy to a skewed, hateful, insular worldview, and gave those who create and disseminate the posts the validation they need to keep going.

THUMBS DOWN to the National Football League, whose displays of support for breast cancer research and U.S. soldiers have been revealed to be not much more than marketing ploys.

A report released this week from Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, shows the Pentagon gave more than $10 million in the last four years to pro sports leagues, mostly the NFL, for in-stadium displays of patriotism.

That is a negligible amount compared to the larger Pentagon budget. But these displays — halftime ceremonies, military-family reunions and the like — are passed off, and received, as sincere expressions of gratitude by the NFL, when they are simply paid advertisements.

That’s similar to what is happening with the league’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when during October players, coaches and stadiums are decked out in pink-accented gear.

That has created a market for the gear, which is sold at retailers, too, but mostly through the NFL shops, online and at stadiums.

After the league, the manufacturer and the retailer are paid off, though, a very small portion of the money makes its way to the American Cancer Society. Then, it seems, none of it actually goes to research, but to screening programs that are of dubious benefit.

The money no doubt helps the ACS, and the initiative certainly helps raise awareness of the disease.

But people who watch the NFL, applaud the support for the troops, and buy the clothing should be aware that the initiatives are enriching the league far more than the intended honorees.

THUMBS UP to a proposal by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, that addresses food waste.

Pingree’s bill, which would, among other things, change the way “sell by” dates are used and create incentives for farms to donate unused produce, may not have all the right answers.

But at the very least her proposal brings into the public sphere a very important question: How does a nation with so much food, and so much wasted food, still have such a massive hunger problem?

It’s a vexing issue, and Pingree’s bill may help get some answers.

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