There’s controversy brewing between the chairmen of the Columbiana County Republican and Mahoning County Democratic parties. It stems from a Facebook post about the deadly California wildfires.

At least 77 people have died as a result of the fires. Nearly 1,000 people are still unaccounted for.

On Monday, Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson posted a meme about the deadly blaze.

“I saw the picture of the fires and then I wrote, I wrote on there, something to the effect… I don’t have it in front of me. ‘Brought to you by the Liberals in California. Welcome to Hell,'” he said.

The post was shared to the Columbiana County Democratic Party page.

It reads, “Welcome to Hell! God’s Punishment to Liberal California” and “Hell on Earth brought to you by the Liberals in California.”

Dave Johnson Facebook post

The sentiment caught the ire of Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Betras.

“The Facebook post is vile and it’s disgusting and people in the Republican Party should hold their leaders to a standard of decency,” Betras said.

Johnson says the post is being blown out of proportion and taken differently than he meant it. He says it started with something he read.

“There was an article that I read about Governor Jerry Brown vetoing a bipartisan wildfire management bill back in 2016,” Johnson said.

Johnson says many point to the veto and the policies of Liberal California politicians, claiming they are responsible for the fires.

“Look. It was an inartful expression and for that, look, I regret it sincerely.” Johnson said. “I certainly didn’t intend to offend or hurt the feelings of anybody that’s lives have been affected by this, and if I did that, I am certainly sorry.”

Betras called for Johnson’s resignation, but Johnson says that’s not going to happen.

“I shouldn’t have had to call him out. He shouldn’t have posted anything like that. Nobody in a position of power should post anything like that,” Betras said.

Johnson issued a statement clarifying his position: 

To err is human. I confess to erring in my recent post regarding the tragic wildfires in California. My intent was not to show any disrespect to the innocent lives that have been lost to these wildfires but rather to point to the POLICIES that have largely contributed to the fires. The attached article from the Sacremento Citizen makes the case – in particular it cites the bipartisan Wildfire Management Bill which Governor Jerry Brown vetoed- as being a contributing factor to the rampant and recurring wildfires in California. This article will give some context to the causes of this horrific situation in California. – David W. Johnson