PEKIN — Jay Hall wishes he had written a few more words on Facebook.
Instead, his short, terse reply to a post about a 16-year-old Swedish teenage activist has sparked outrage, led to calls for his resignation from the Tazewell County Board and caused him to quit as president of a Pekin nonprofit that works with disabled persons.
“I wish I had finished what I was thinking. I just can't believe this is news, but I realize that now, and, wow, I forgot what world we live in,” he said Thursday evening, two days after the controversy erupted. "I was merely stating an observation. What I saw was young woman who might have special needs."
The undated Facebook post asked if 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, a climate change activist, had Down syndrome. However, Hall, 57, used a out-dated and now-offensive term — Mongoloidism. He says that term came to him because it was used when he was younger. Thunberg has Asperger's syndrome, which is a form of autism.
No offense was intended, he said, and he apologizes for any ill will and for his poor choice of words. His own grandson has Asparger's.
Instead of insulting the teen, Hall says he was actually upset with how she was being treated, going so far as to say she was a victim of child abuse.
“I feel that she has been manipulated and is a victim of child abuse. She has been so propagandized that the world is coming to an end due to climate change. The world changes all the time, and it’s not going to end in 10 years and then her life is over,” he said. “Now, I find out she’s autistic, and I feel they are manipulating a special-needs child.
“That makes me angry.”
On Tuesday, screenshots of Hall’s message, which was attached to a post about a Fox News apology to Thunberg following one of its guests calling her a mentally ill Swedish child, circulated throughout the area and to several media outlets.
In response, Hall took down his Facebook page and has since gotten off all social media sites, he said.
On its website, Pekin AMBUCS stated that Hall, who also sits on the Tazewell County Board, has resigned as president.
“Recently, Pekin AMBUCS member Jay Hall made some inappropriate comments on Facebook. His comments do not, in any way, reflect the views of the Pekin AMBUCS organization and its other members. Pekin AMBUCS is an organization that has been, and will always be, dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities. Not only in our own community, but nationwide. Pekin AMBUCS has accepted Jay Hall’s resignation as President, and a new interim President will be appointed. Pekin AMBUCS will always have the best interest in mind for those in our community and beyond,” the statement read.
Hall was elected to the County Board in 2016, when he ousted appointed incumbent Democrat Gary Sciortino to fill the final two years of a term left vacant when Rosemary Palmer resigned.
In 2018, Hall was elected to a full four-year term.
He had been president and secretary of the Pekin chapter of AMBUCS, a national organization that assists people who have mobility and independence problems.