A Michigan state senate candidate wrote that it was "normal" for adult men to marry and have sex with pre-pubescent girls.
A Michigan businessman abandoned his State Senate campaign in early February 2018, after making derogatory Facebook comments about the judge who sentenced osteopath Larry Nassar in a case involving the sexual abuse of hundreds of American gymnasts.
Michael Saari of Walled Lake, Michigan, faced backlash to comments posted days after Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to a cumulative 175-year prison sentence on multiple counts of sexually abusing young girls in his care.
As part of a Facebook discussion in response to the sentencing, Saari wrote:
Judge was wrong for her personal vocal opinions on record … That should be a crime against jurisprudence itself … Lastly, what do you think this feminazi judge would say if her husband asked for a BJ?
Saari deleted his Facebook account, but several observers managed to keep a record of this exchange by taking screen shots of his controversial posts.
Saari originally told WWJ that he could not recall writing the comments, saying “I post a lot.” However, he later admitted that he posted the remarks, in an interview with local ABC affiliate WXYZ, saying: “Yes, absolutely.”
Saari doubled down on his criticism of Aquilina but said he should have chosen a different way to articulate his views: “If I was to do it all over again, I probably would not have used such a derogatory terminology.”
Facebook users also uncovered several troubling earlier posts he appears to have published, including one from 2016 in which he appears to defend adult men marrying and having sex with pre-pubescent girls.
Woman [sic] don’t seem to understand that from the very beginning of time men have taken young girls (Prior to periods) as wives and concubines. Even the bible talks of this so don’t make it sound like men that are attracted to 12 year old girls are sick…It’s you woman [sic] that can’t get a grip on reality is whats sick… It’s only normal and you can’t change normal or a persons DNA…
In a 1 February interview with a Michigan-based Patch site, Saari denied having written those words. According to Patch, Saari said he believed someone had fabricated the screen shots, and added: “I’ve never made those comments. It’s not my character.”
On 5 February, however, Saari told us by phone that although the post was authentic and was published by his Facebook account it was the result of a hack and that he personally did not write it: “When I ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2014, my Facebook was hacked … The biblical thing [the post about young girls] did not come from me.”
However, the post in question was published in 2016.
When we asked Saari whether his Facebook account had remained hacked for two years, he replied “From what I can understand, yes,” adding, “I’m not a computer guy.”
Ian Bancroft, a financial advisor and, like Saari, a fishing enthusiast, took part in the 2016 Facebook exchange and told local Fox News affiliate WJBK “It was definitely him,” adding “It was a weekly occurrence for him to comment obscenities on news articles or in a lot of the fly fishing groups that were racist comments, things like that.”
For his part, Saari told us he does not defend or support the practice of adult men marrying or having sex with pre-pubescent girls: “Absolutely not. If I had a daughter, I think I’d go berserk if anyone was even looking at my daughter.”
Saari said he believed the post was designed by hackers to portray him as a “child molester” and thereby inflict the maximum possible damage on his political career: “The Democrat party or whoever it was who sabotaged my campaign knew there could be nothing heavier than that.”
It didn’t end there.
Facebook users have also condemned a series of posts from Saari’s account which contained racially charged, derogatory language and appeared to support racial segregation.
In one 2016 post, Saari appeared to speculate that an African-American U.S. navy veteran who runs a Michigan fishing non-profit was a “butler” and in another, he sent the same man a diatribe in which he castigated black people for ‘struggling to imitate and shadow’ what Saari called “white people activities.”
Saari denied writing either of these posts and attributed them to the alleged hacking of his account. He told us the “butler” post “was the first time I suspected my computer had been hacked,” after he received messages from Facebook friends asking whether he had really written the derogatory post himself.
When asked, the former candidate told us he supported racial equality, saying: “I’m a Christian. I’m no better than a Filipino or a black person or an Indian.”
When asked if he supported racial mixing, Saari said “I don’t advocate racial mixing, I’m not advocating it. I’ve never given it a whole lot of thought.”
On the right to marry a person from a different race, Saari told us his position was “If they’re in love it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if they’re gay, lesbian, black or white. I don’t care. People have the freedom to do what they want to do. This is America.”
When asked, Saari said he had not notified Facebook that he believed his account had been hacked and told us the damage to his reputation was so extreme that such efforts would be a waste of time. He added: “There’s nothing I can do to redeem my name in politics.”
Three months later, Saari seemingly admitted he had made the Facebook post about sex with pre-pubescent girls that he had previously denied (his comments on the matter were far from clear) and maintained that he had not, in fact, dropped out of the state senate race:
In the end, Saari lost the August 2018 Republican primary by an overwhelming 90-10 margin: