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August 15, 2017

Commissioner 'utterly horrified' by Philly firefighter's Facebook post

A Philadelphia firefighter who posted a Facebook image of himself carrying a tiki torch and captioned it "Headed to Virginia" will be spared his job despite his "reprehensible" content of the message, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

John Deluisi, a nearly 20-year veteran of the department, told FOX29 on Monday he was "drinking way too much" when he posted the photo of himself wearing a Confederate hat and carrying a tiki torch.

White nationalist groups rallied Saturday in Charlottesville, sparked by conflict over the legacy of a Confederate statue. A 32-year-old woman died and more than a dozen others were injured when a driver rammed his car into a peaceful crowd of counter-protesters. 

The incident reignited a fierce national debate about the resurgence of hate groups, the fragile state of race relations in America and a tepid response from President Donald Trump.

"I am an idiot," Deluisi said in his apology, explaining that his decision to tag an African-American co-worker in the post was meant as a joke. "I am very disappointed in myself and I am very sorry."

Thiel condemned Deluisi's Facebook post but decided the message was not representative of his values.

I recently learned of a reprehensible social media post that originated with a Philadelphia Fire Department member. I am utterly horrified and disgusted by the content of this post.

Racist images, symbols, words and actions are contrary to our mission and values and have absolutely no place in our Department. We will take swift and decisive personnel action after a full investigation. The Department will follow-up with intensive and focused workplace conduct training for our more than 2,600 members.

While I am disappointed by this event, I know this individual's behavior does not represent the values, dedication and service of our entire Department. We will continue working 24x7x365 to ensure the safety of all city residents.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who had called the post "deeply disturbing," now faces renewed calls to remove the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo at the city's Municipal Services Building.

"We think now is a good time to have that conversation about the statue's future," Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said Tuesday. "We need to figure out the proper forum for that conversation in a serious, structured way, but now is the right time."