Harris County GOP chairman-elect steps down amid fallout of problematic MLK social media post

The chairman-elect of the Harris County Republican Party Keith Nielsen is resigning Saturday after facing backlash for a controversial social media post.

“I regret that I must step aside as Chairman-elect of the Harris County Republican Party and will not be taking office on Aug. 3rd,” Nielsen wrote on Facebook.

On Thursday in a now-removed post, the Harris County GOP Chair Facebook page posted a famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr. The words “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” were placed next to the image of a banana.

“For hundreds of years, African Americans have been called monkeys, baboons, and so that symbolizes a derogatory term for African Americans,” said James Douglas, the president of the NAACP Houston.

Nielsen has not yet started in his position as the Harris County’s party chair.

In another post on Thursday afternoon, Nielson wrote in part: "It is unfortunate that the sentiment of the quote and my admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been overshadowed by people’s misinterpretation of an image.”

Earlier that same day, Nielsen told KPRC 2 that he has an app that “posts stuff," and he thought that day “everything is going bananas.”

The post was still up as of 10 a.m. on Thursday morning but was deleted by nightfall.

“I can't believe in this climate that some person who has been elected to lead a major political party would do something as ignorant and stupid as this,” Douglas said.

Local Republicans are weighing in as well.

“Keith Nielsen has no place in our party,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw said in a statement, “Not now. Not ever. It is a sad reminder that such blatant ignorance and bigotry still exist. When we see it, it’s our duty to unequivocally condemn it and make sure that people like him have no place in our politics.”

“As a State Senator in the next legislative session, I will be filing a bill on the qualifications to file for and run in the primary for the position of Political Party County Chair," State Senator Paul Bettencourt said in a text message. "As only the Chair-elect at this time, Mr. Nielsen does not yet speak officially for the Harris County Republican Party nor does his Facebook page represent HCRP. His prior post reflects specifically upon himself as an individual. I can only hope his current Facebook post is a truthful apology, and that he is indeed an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King as he has stated today.”