An assistant principal in Texas has been removed from his position after publishing a book featuring Pepe the Frog, the cartoon character that has been co-opted by the alt-right and white nationalist movement, according to the Associated Press.
Assistant Principal Eric Hauser was removed from his post at Rodriguez Middle School in the Denton school district, which is about 300 miles from Houston, the district said this week.
In a statement on the district’s website, Superintendent Jamie Wilson said that Hauser will not serve as a campus administrator or educator, but his new role has not yet been determined.
Hauser self-published the book, “The Adventures of Pepe and Pede,” with a conservative message, this summer. (The Washington Post has a good summary of the book and its message here.)
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Pepe the Frog cartoon first appeared in 2005, and did not have any connection to racist or anti-Semitic ideology. Since then, the cartoon has been co-opted by some internet users and used along with racist and anti-Semitic messages, according to the ADL.
The district emphasized that it had no ties to the book and that the book was not tied to its curriculum.
Wilson said the book and the surrounding controversy had become a problem for the district, which serves about 28,000 students from 17 different communities and different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds.
“We pride ourselves on providing a welcoming and nurturing environment to all students,” Wilson said in her statement. “Our staff is reflective of the community we serve, where all individuals are respected. We encourage our staff and students to be free-thinking and express their ideas, however, when these ideas interrupt the ability to learn, work or create divisiveness each of us is held accountable.”
In the statement, Hauser said that given the controversy, it was best that he not serve as assistant principal.
“The students, the community, and the teachers are too important to me to subject them to all the negativity and disapproval resulting from this book,” he said. “To my colleagues, I offer my deepest apologies if this has affected them or their families in any negative way.”
The Dallas Morning News reported that Hauser said that while he knew that Pepe was a conservative meme he did not know that the cartoon was associated with white supremacists. He said that he’s not aligned with the alt-right, according to the paper.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.