In Boston at-large council race, state GOP backed boxer who pushed anti-Asian posts

Jim Lyons and Donnie Palmer
Mass. GOP chair Jim Lyons and former City Council candidate Donnie Palmer (Photo via Twitter)

Massachusetts GOP officials spent thousands of dollars to help a Boston City Council at-large candidate who has taken to social media with anti-Asian posts, falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen, and lashed out about vaccine requirements.

Donnie Palmer, a professional boxer who hails from Dorchester, was among the 17 candidates to run for City Council at-large in the Sept. 14 preliminary election. He was knocked out of contention for the Nov. 2 final election after finishing in 14th place with 6,823 votes.

In a recent filing with state campaign finance regulators, the Republican State Committee disclosed it spent $3,697 on Facebook ads supporting Palmer in August. The panel and Palmer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“ARE WE ABOUT TO ELECT A CHINESE CITIZEN TO CONTROL THE CITY OF BOSTON?” Palmer said in an Aug. 29 message that he posted to Twitter. It was accompanied by a photograph of mayoral contender Michelle Wu, who was born in Chicago and is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. Palmer paired her photo with one of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“The Arabs and Chinese want to do to Africa what the Europeans did to America. Wipe out the indigenous people and set up a super colony,” one person posted to Twitter in early September. “Correct!” Palmer responded in another Twitter post.

In early October, Palmer posted a photo of Wu and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who was raised in Chicago, and asked, “Do you think that Chicago would allow a bunch of gangsters from Boston to come in and take over their city??? NO WAY…and neither should we.”

Responding directly to Wu after her campaign posted her TV ad on Twitter on Aug. 19, Palmer echoed former President Donald Trump in calling coronavirus a “Chinese” virus and asked, “Does China run Boston?” In another Twitter post, Palmer claimed Australia is “controlled” by China and added, “WE ARE NEXT.”

Wu said in a statement to the Reporter there is a “responsibility to stand together against the scourge of Anti-Asian racism and hatred of all kinds.” She added: “Funding campaigns built on discrimination only perpetuates the alienation so many have from our political process. I’m committed to joining our communities to stand up against racism, and see and value every person.”

Palmer, an unabashed Trump supporter who sought to be the first Black Republican on the City Council, has also shared content on Facebook that has been flagged as factually inaccurate, posted to Twitter about how the 2020 US election was stolen, and claimed politicians are “forcing us to take a vaccine that’s killing healthy people all over the country.” Palmer also called Acting Mayor Kim Janey a “fascist dictator” after she required vaccines for city workers.

The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association (BPPA), a top police union, also endorsed Palmer in August and sent him $500 in September. He was one of five candidates the union endorsed in the preliminary.

“We were completely unaware of these postings and we do not condone these racist statements,” Larry Calderone, head of the BPPA, said in a statement. He noted the postings referenced by the Reporter occurred after their Aug. 18 endorsement of Palmer. “Further, at that time, we were unaware of these or any other postings that reflected racist attitudes by Mr. Palmer,” Calderone added. “The BPPA abhors all forms of racism and Mr. Palmer’s statements do not reflect our values.”

In a July 10 post, Palmer wrote, “Earlier in the race I felt that the GOP were not interested in supporting me. That has all changed. Jim Lyons, the Mass. GOP chairman, is giving me massive support.” The post included a picture of Palmer and Lyons, who has worked to remake the Massachusetts GOP, known for moderate candidates who served as a check on Democrats on Beacon Hill, into a pro-Trump outfit.

Since losing the preliminary, Palmer has set his sights on running against Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who is up for reelection next year. Before his at-large run this year, Palmer previously ran and lost to District 3 City Councillor Frank Baker of Dorchester in 2015.

According to campaign finance records, Palmer received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for his at-large run, but he has not disclosed the donors. He appears to have spent much of the money on local eateries. In his most recent filing, his campaign account is nearly $450 in the red.

State campaign finance regulators have sent him several letters asking him about missing information in his filings on donations and expenditures.

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