West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) said Monday he has approved the firing of over 30 West Virginia corrections cadets and staff who participated in a Nazi salute during a class photo.
Gov. Justice reviewed and approved the recommended terminations from the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, according to a statement from his office.
“As I said from the beginning, I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class 18 in the strongest possible terms,” Justice said in the statement. “I also said that this act needed to result in real consequences — terminations and dismissals. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch in any agency of State government.”
The photo of Basic Training Class 18, released by the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety on Dec. 5 with the employees’ faces blurred, shows about 30 uniformed trainees posing with their right arms raised, most of them with their hands also extended. The words “Hail Byrd!” also appear at the top of the photograph.
The report recommended the termination of an academy staff member and four academy instructors, who had knowledge of the photo and salute, and all cadets who participated.
An investigation of the photo revealed that the use of the gesture began two to three weeks into training as one that the cadets have described as a “sign of respect for Byrd,” the class instructor.
Byrd claimed she was not aware of the implications behind the salute, but other interviews contradicted that, saying she instructed the cadets to make it.
“The investigation disclosed that she encouraged it, reveled in it, and at times reciprocated the gesture,” the report said. “Additionally, Byrd appeared to overrule the corrective actions taken by others and assured the cadets the behavior was acceptable.”
The Hill reports:
The photo was reportedly taken multiple times because not everyone participated until Byrd instructed them to do so, and some cadets made a fist instead of the salute in an attempt to appease the instructor. The report recommended that every cadet be terminated because of the “far-reaching and harmful perceptions” of the gesture.
Byrd gave the photo to secretarial staff as part of regular procedure and told them to caption it “Hail Byrd,” adding, “That’s why they do that because I’m a hard-ass like Hitler.” Three people, two training instructors and one cadet were fired when the photo surfaced earlier this month.