A West Hollywood Halloween display showing a likeness of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging by a noose has caused a furor among some residents who reported it as a hate crime, authorities said Monday.
But Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said the mannequin sporting a beehive hairdo, glasses and a red coat does not rise to the level of a hate crime because it was part of a Halloween display.
“I’m not defending this; I’m not criticizing it. It doesn’t rise to the level of hate crime,” said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, who said he went out to the house himself to look at the display this morning.
“While these residents have the legal right to display Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin in effigy, I strongly oppose political speech that references violence—real or perceived,” Prang [West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang] said in a statement. “I urge these residents to take down their display and find more constructive ways to express their opinion.”
Whitmore said that potential hate crimes are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If the same display had been made of a Barack Obama-like doll, for example, authorities would have to evaluate it independently, Whitmore said.
“That adds a whole other social, historical hate aspect to the display, and that is embedded in the consciousness of the country,” he said, adding he’s not sure whether it would be a hate crime. “It would be ill-advised of anybody to speculate on that.”
[Editors Note: Yesterday’s story on this matter can be read here.]