‘Attempted political hack job’: John Merrill hits Alabama ACLU for suing over three blocked Twitter users
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of three Alabama citizens who are complaining that Secretary of State John Merrill blocked them on Twitter, and Merrill responded by calling the legal action “an attempted political hack job” by “this liberal group.”
The ACLU is claiming that, as an elected official, Merrill’s actions violate the First Amendment. Merrill responded in a statement by pointing out the Twitter account in question is his personal account that has been in use since 2009, not a public account of his government office. The secretary of state’s office “account has never blocked anyone from viewing any of the posts on its page,” he added.
One of the plaintiffs, Kimberly Fasking, claimed that Merrill “weaponized that [personal] account by blocking those with whom he disagrees politically.” Merrill disagreed with this aggressive characterization in his statement.
“[W]hen people use a platform for public debate as a way to promote their agenda, regardless of the presentation of any factual information, I believe it is my responsibility to designate attempts to misinform the public as false,” Merrill explained. “And, when users continue to publish those instances, or when they make hurtful statements about me or my family, I try to reduce the exposure to avoid misinforming members of the public.”
“The lawsuit filed today by the ACLU of Alabama is an attempted political hack job. Members of this liberal group are attempting to create an issue concerning lack of access to public officials that simply does not exist,” he added.
He then outlined his proud record of accessibility, which is no secret in Alabama political and media circles.
“As every member of the media and general public who interacts with this office knows, the most important thing for an elected official to do is to remain accessible to the people of this state. That is why I always make my cell number – 334.328.2787 – available to all Alabamians,” Merrill said.
He added, “I am recognized as one of the most accessible and personally available elected officials in the history of the state of Alabama, which is why I visit all 67 counties each year. It is my desire to continue to be recognized in that way as long as I have the privilege to continue to serve in public office.”
BREAKING: The ACLU of Alabama filed a lawsuit today on behalf of three Alabama citizens challenging @alasecofstate @JohnHMerrill for blocking them on Twitter and violating the First Amendment. #BlockedByMerrill
— ACLU of Alabama (@ACLUAlabama) September 19, 2018
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn