The son of Republican Rep. Joe Heck made several sharply racist and sexist comments and upvoted inflammatory memes on Reddit, according to a BuzzFeed News review of his account.
Rep. Heck, who is running for US Senate in Nevada, issued an apology on Thursday after BuzzFeed News notified his campaign of his son's actions. His son, Joseph Heck III, who goes by Joey, also apologized, and said he was entering counseling. Joey Heck's comments have since been removed from the website.
In 2013, BuzzFeed News previously reported on Joey Heck's online comments, including saying in a tweet that President Obama was only good at "spear chucking and rock skipping." Rep. Heck issued an apology for his son's tweets at the time. Joey Heck is now 19 and in college.
In his statement, Joey Heck wrote that his parents "raised me to be responsible and respectful and to love my neighbor."
"I’ve let my family down and failed to show a proper level of respect for others," his statement said. "As a 15-year-old, it was easy to get caught up in and manipulated by social media. As an 19-year-old, I have no excuse. I know better. This is my mistake. I own it and I sincerely regret it. I am truly sorry."
The Heck family, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, said, "While it is difficult to convey the magnitude of our disappointment in our son Joey’s behavior as well as our concern by the content of his social media account, our love for him does not waver. Our family accepts his apology and fully supports his decision to seek counseling. We will stand by Joey as he works through these issues as any parent would do, and his sisters are fully committed to provide support and guidance."
The comments and upvotes on Reddit include graphic language.
Using the username Joeyj424, Joey Heck posted inflammatory and misogynistic comments on Reddit during the past year. As recently as two months ago, a message (called "flair" by Reddit users) appeared next to his username on all his comments that said, "I wish Hillary would violate me as much as she did federal law."
Joey Heck also commented more than once on the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. In one post a year ago, he commented on a photo comparing the comedian, accused by dozens of women of sexual assault and by some of drugging them, to champion boxers. He wrote, "Up there with the best of them, good for you Billy". In another comment on a New York Magazine article cover that featured 35 women who accused Cosby of assaulting them, "Number 9 didn't even need the drugs her eyes are already all sorts of fucked up."
Heck's son also upvoted, or endorsed, a number of racist and anti-Semitic pictures and memes. Reddit's algorithm uses upvotes to determine what gets promoted on the site. One image he upvoted was a racist depiction of a group of black children with the caption, "God made the little niggers, He made them in the night, He made them in a hurry, and forgot to make them white!"
He also upvoted a meme of a white person with a disability in a wheelchair, which read, "Just another retard who thinks hes a nigger I hate when white kids throw up gang signs". In another picture he upvoted, a penguin is shown in front of an oven expressing happiness that "my jews are almost done!"
A year ago, Joey Heck commented on a picture of a sex toy in a basket of children's toys, saying, "I'm deeply ashamed of you for this. You're a failure as a father. 3 years old and that's all she can take?"
In a number of comments, Heck's son refers to people with disabilities by the slur "potatoes." He called a woman who appeared in a video with her autistic son a "Hot ass potato farmer."
And in a comment on a meme of a dancing black child wearing a diaper, with the words, "Guess Who's Getting Confederate Flag Shirts," Joey Heck posted, "Great, what's next? Giving them food too? Greedy bastards". In another comment, Heck wrote that he was "impressed" by a meme of a Muslim man being sodomized by a pig.
Here's the full statement from the Heck family:
While it is difficult to convey the magnitude of our disappointment in our son Joey’s behavior as well as our concern by the content of his social media account, our love for him does not waver. Our family accepts his apology and fully supports his decision to seek counseling. We will stand by Joey as he works through these issues as any parent would do, and his sisters are fully committed to provide support and guidance.
Our family in no way condones this behavior, though we do take comfort in his apology and decision to seek professional counseling.
We ask that you allow our family privacy along with prayers to help our son through this process and very difficult time.
Here's the full statement from Joey Heck:
Recently, a few social media posts and responses have been linked to me by national media. I would like to publicly apologize to you and my family for my poor judgment and bad decisions. My parents raised me to be responsible and respectful and to love my neighbor. However, my behavior on social media has gone against everything I was taught, and I am ashamed of that. My family deserves better.
I’ve let my family down and failed to show a proper level of respect for others. As a 15-year-old, it was easy to get caught up in and manipulated by social media.. As an 19-year-old, I have no excuse. I know better. This is my mistake. I own it and I sincerely regret it. I am truly sorry.
It is difficult to be a child of someone in politics, but my family and friends were there for me when I’ve heard negative things about my father, or sometimes even myself. But to be the cause of so much pain for them is inexcusable. I’ve have chosen to go to counseling to help me work through these issues.
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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