Republicans criticized Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone Wednesday for buying a Facebook ad, funded with money from his re-election campaign, that features slain NYPD Officer Brian Moore and invites users to "like" Bellone's Facebook page.
"Join me in keeping P.O. Moore, his family and all law enforcement in your thoughts & prayers," the ad says. The ad allows people to like Bellone's Facebook page. He is up for re-election this year.
In a news release issued by the Suffolk Republican Committee, Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), a retired Suffolk County police officer, said, "The use of a murdered Police Officer's name and photograph for political gain is the most tasteless thing I've seen in politics."
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the Facebook page "clearly" promotes Bellone. "You're using a murdered cop to drive people to your Facebook page and using political funds to do it. That's wrong. End of story," said Trotta.
Bellone said his Facebook page focuses only on governmental issues.
A spokesman said the page is run by the county executive's communications staff."It's a tool to get information to residents," Bellone said in an interview. " . . . It never has been political and never will be."
He said he bought the ad to share his message of support for Moore and his family with county residents.
Bellone said the county communications budget has no money for advertising, so the campaign provided the money as a public service.
"Any means we can to get out important messages to the public -- and there's nothing more important to get out to the public than support for law enforcement," Bellone said.
Suffolk Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo said he had "no issues" with the ad.
"I've been assured nothing will be followed up with political material from this Facebook page," DiGerolamo said. "I believe it was a genuine statement showing his support of law enforcement and reminding people of the inherent dangers of policing," DiGerolamo said.
Facebook likes can help boost the prominence of posts and ads on voters' pages. In its online pitch to political campaigns, Facebook says, "Encourage supporters to like your Page in campaign literature, at events, and with ads so that you can reach virtually all of your voters with a friend's endorsements."
Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers did not respond to a question about the ad's cost. Campaign finance reports show that Bellone's campaign spent $7,686 on Facebook ads in December and January.
Meyers said the ad ran online from May 2, when Moore was shot in Queens, until his funeral on May 7. Moore, 25, of Massapequa, died in the hospital two days after the shooting. Demetrius Blackwell, 35, has been charged with murder and is being held in jail without bail.