The local head of the Republican Party, Shirlene DelaCruz Ostrov, has resigned following an unauthorized series of tweets on the group’s Twitter account that defended people supporting baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and led her to reassure the Jewish community that the comments “have no place in our party.”
First Vice Chairman Boyd Ready is now serving as acting chairman until the party elects a new chairman and executive committee in May.
On Jan. 23, Edwin Boyette, then Hawaii GOP communications vice chairman, posted a series of tweets about QAnon, whose conspiracy theories helped fuel the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“We should make it abundantly clear — the people who subscribed to the Q fiction, were largely motivated by a sincere and deep love for America. Patriotism and love of County (sic) should never be ridiculed,” said one of several tweets that Boyette posted Jan. 23.
The tweets have since been deleted from the party’s account. Boyette resigned the next day.
Another deleted tweet on the GOP Hawaii account from the same day promoted the “analysis and commentary” of a mainland blogger and Holocaust denier as “generally high quality.”
On Jan. 25 Ostrov tweeted: “I accept full responsibility for the unauthorized tweets posted by our former Vice Chair of Communications. He has resigned effective January 24, and pending official party action. … Promoting content for the purposes of shock value does not help us to build a more perfect union, nor does it help a divided nation heal.
”To our friends in the Jewish community, we find the comments to be deeply disturbing and offensive and have no place in our party much less our country.”
On Sunday, Ostrov submitted her own immediate resignation after four years as head of the Hawaii GOP.
In a statement the party said, “Just last week, Ms. Ostrov chose to accept responsibility for several unauthorized tweets that garnered national and international criticism.”
Boyette told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday none of the tweets included anything about Jewish people or could be interpreted as anti-Semitic. He said the tweets did not support QAnon theories, but only defended some of the online group’s local adherents.
He said Ostrov’s subsequent comments to the Jewish community were “based on something that was told to her. I’ve never made an anti-Semitic comment in my life.”
Boyette noted that he has met no local QAnon believers who have espoused anti-Semitic views.
He acknowledged that his comments about QAnon were “an error in judgment.” He called QAnon “a flawed theory” based on “fictitious” information.
His “error in judgement,” Boyette said, was “bringing a contentious thing to the forum of Twitter.”
Asked why he resigned as the head of communications for the Hawaii Republic Party if he did nothing wrong, Boyette said, “I didn’t want the GOP to deal with any contentiousness.”
In a follow-up email to the Star-Advertiser, he said, “The primary reason I resigned was because of death threats made to other Republicans in response to the tweets. I was horrified that someone was threatened over a plea for civility. The media went out of it’s way to distort what was said. I stand by my rejection of the Q theory, but defense of the particular supporters here in Hawaii.”
QAnon followers advocate a conspiracy theory rooted in the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting deep-state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring.
The Anti-Defamation League has said, “Several aspects of QAnon lore mirror longstanding antisemitic tropes.”
Many QAnon believers were among the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
State Sen. Kurt Fevella (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) did not read the original tweets, but condemned them.
“I’m not supporting none of that,” Fevella said.
Ostrov’s resignation shows that she accepted responsibility for someone else’s actions, Fevella said.
“For her to take responsibility, that’s leadership because it falls upon her watch,” Fevella said. “I don’t blame her. I don’t blame her.”
State Rep. Val Okimoto (R, Mililani-Mililani Mauka- Waipio Acres) also denounced the tweets.
“I disagreed with the sentiments completely,” Okimoto said. “I find it appalling. It’s unacceptable. I condemn any form of anti- Semitism and baseless conspiracies to the fullest. What was presented in those tweets doesn’t reflect anything that I stand for or my values. … I’m a conservative voter, but my behavior is in no way toward the extreme. I’m just a local kid born into these islands. There’s no room for the extreme in the Hawaii that I grew up in.”
Okimoto declined to speculate on what direction the Hawaii Republican Party would go in following the May election of new leadership.
But she called the election “an opportunity for change to give a different voice for Hawaii. … We need a healthy two-party system here.”
Political analyst Neal Milner said the resignations among the Hawaii Republican Party reflect the national divide among the GOP over Trump’s loss and how to respond to the Capitol siege.
“There is no reason to assume things are different and better in Hawaii,” Milner said. “It reflects what’s happening generally with the Republican Party rank and file. We’re subject to the same winds. A majority of Republican voters still think the election was stolen. There’s no reason to think our Republicans here are any different.”
Milner said he has no expectation that the scheduled May election of a new Hawaii Republican Party chairman and executive committee will lead to consensus among the local GOP about how to proceed and how far to the right or to the middle the party will want to go.
“There’s no reason to believe that this idea that the election was stolen is going to go away,” Milner said. “I don’t think there’s going to be any reconciliation.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.