A report Friday from ProPublica and the Post and Courier found that South Carolina Magistrate Mike Pitts made anti-trans, anti-immigrant, and racist comments on social media before his confirmation.
Pitts, a retired police officer and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives who does not have a law license, was confirmed by the state senate in June.
While in the House, Pitts avidly defended the Confederate flag’s presence on statehouse grounds after a white supremacist massacred nine Black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The legislature ultimately voted to remove the flag.
ProPublica and the Post and Courier found that Pitts wrote on his Facebook page about transgender people that "they aren’t sure what the hell they are.”
In November 2017, reported the Post and Courier, he complained about people “from the Middle East” in Walmart.
“After being subject to this incident I now support shutting down all immigration until we stop the demise of our culture,” Pitts wrote.
Pitts was also photographed wearing a shirt that said, “Welcome to America Learn the Damn Language!”
And in May 2019, under a photo of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Pitts reportedly wrote, “Cory Booker alway [sic] looks like he just hit crack real hard.”
Magistrate judges like Pitts can decide hundreds of thousands of cases per year. This means he has the authority to choose whether to send someone to prison for months or fine them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Still, unlike felony or appellate court judges, magistrates face no hearings in the legislature before being confirmed. In fact, some judges, like Pitts, only need the support of a single senator.
In Pitts’ case, it was State Sen. Danny Verdin. Neither Verdin nor Pitts responded to the Post and Courier’s requests for comment on the Facebook posts.
Republican state Rep. Gary Clary, a former state circuit judge, told the Post and Courier the posts could be “grounds for recusal” for Pitts in cases involving people of color or transgender people — lest he appear biased.
South Carolina NAACP President Brenda Murphy said, “We would not want someone who has made those comments appointed as a magistrate in a local community.”
According to the National Institute on Money in Politics, the top donors to Pitts’ House campaigns over the years include the South Carolina Farm Bureau, the South Carolina Trucking Association, National Healthcare Corporation, the South Carolina Optometric Association, Duke Energy, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.