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McDonald’s bad joke: Apologize and move on

Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr.

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr.

Bad jokes are a traditional part of any roast. But Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald Jr.’s quip at a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast about assassinating President Obama went too far. McDonald has since tried to defend it as humor. He should simply apologize.

In the punch line of one of McDonald’s jokes, delivered before Republicans at the Scituate Country Club, the sheriff said the ghost of President Abraham Lincoln visited Obama and advised him on how to improve the country: “Go to the theater.” (Lincoln was assassinated at a theater.)

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The joke wasn’t funny, but McDonald’s defense of it has been worse. Some Democrats have called for the sheriff to resign. McDonald’s response has been to call his critics “Nazis” and “hypocrites,” saying he has heard liberals make similar jokes. Senate candidate and former US Attorney Michael Sullivan has stood behind McDonald. This is a mulish stance by both Sullivan and the sheriff, who, as law enforcement officials, should know that advocating violence, even in a joking manner, isn’t appropriate.

The public counts on McDonald, as sheriff, to be measured in his judgment. Voters will have to decide if they can still trust him when he is up for reelection in 2016. A first step would be for McDonald to acknowledge he is wrong and offer a genuine apology.

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