More Than 30 West Virginia Gov’t Employees Fired After Nazi Salute Investigation
More than 30 cadets and staff members at a corrections academy in West Virginia were fired this month after a photo emerged showing the group making a Nazi salute, according to HuffPost.
The state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety investigated the issue, culminating in Republican Governor Jim Justice’s decision to fire the entire group of employees from the photo as well as several others who were aware of the incident.
“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms,” Justice said in a statement on Monday.
The photo, first reported by Charleston, West Virginia-based WCHS-TV, shows members of Basic Training Class 18 making a Nazi salute — also known as the “Hail Hitler” salute — while posing under a sign that read “Hail Byrd.” Byrd reportedly referred to the class instructor, though officials did not reveal her first name.
Many of the cadets indicated that it was Byrd who encouraged the salute when the photo was taken, and she reportedly later told a secretary: “They do that because I’m a hard-ass like Hitler.”
And this was not the only photo depicting Hitler-related imagery, HuffPost noted: “One reportedly shows Byrd and some cadets holding their hands horizontally beneath their noses, in an apparent reference to Hitler’s distinctive mustache. The investigation into those photos is ongoing, the report said.”
Though Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy determined that everyone involved with the offending photo should be fired, the report concluded:
“There is no dispute that the ‘Hail Byrd’ gesture and photograph were highly offensive and egregious in appearance, but the investigation did not reveal any overt motivation or intent that this was a discriminatory act towards any racial, religious, or ethnic group. Rather, contributing factors included poor judgment, ignorance, peer pressure, and fear of reprisal.”