June 14, 2017

Why did potential congressional candidate from Philly like Alexandria shooter's Facebook photo?

Lindy Li posted a smiley face to an image James T. Hodgkinson uploaded to Facebook

Controversy Lindy Li
06142017_LindyLi_JamesHodgkinson_FB Credits/Facebook

Lindy Li, left, a potential congressional candidate from Malvern, Chester County, responded in August 2015 to a Facebook post by James Hodgkinson, the Illinois man who shot up a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday morning in Virginia.

As investigators work to piece together what led James T. Hodgkinson to open fire Wednesday morning in a “deliberate attack” on Republican lawmakers and aides in Alexandria, Virginia, a potential congressional candidate from the Philadelphia suburbs finds herself explaining a brief Facebook interaction she had with the shooter.

Lindy Li, of Center City, has not formally declared her candidacy for U.S. Congress in Philadelphia.

Less than two years ago, though, the Democrat posted a smiley face on a profile photo that Hodgkinson posted to his Facebook page. 

That interaction has drawn quite a bit of attention in the hours after the Alexandria shootings.

In an interview with PhillyVoice early Wednesday morning, Li said the news was “shocking.”

“I’m not doing so well,” she said. “This is devastating.”

Li explained that Hodgkinson liked her campaign page a few years ago and that she liked his photo just to be nice. (In 2015, she considered running against incumbent Pat Meehan in the 7th District, but switched to the 6th by the end of the year, withdrawing from that race after a ballot challenge.)

“Shortly after that, I unfriended him. I found (his online presence) disturbing, but I never thought he would be a shooter like this,” Li told PhillyVoice. “I condemn his actions in the strongest possible terms.”

She said she’s reached out to Facebook in an attempt to get them to delete the post, which she can’t do since she unfriended him in the time since Aug. 16, 2015. (Update: Li shared that Facebook responded to her concerns and took the post down as of 1:55 p.m. Wednesday.)

NoneSource/Facebook

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Li said that the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, and the need for gun control thereafter, is one of the reasons she has pursued a run for office.

“It’s like the universe is playing a sick joke on me,” she said. “This happened just two days after the one-year anniversary of the nation’s largest mass shooting. It’s unacceptable. We cannot let this become normalized.

“Please don’t mistake my ‘smiley face’ (on that post) as being anything but me just wanting to be nice to people. I had no idea this could happen.”