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White House's Kelly slams teacher who disparaged troops: 'I think the guy ought to go to hell'

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly speaks to reporters during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Oct. 19, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

OLIVER CONTRERAS/SIPA USA/TNS

By ELI ROSENBERG AND J. FREEDOM DU LAC | The Washington Post | Published: January 31, 2018

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly offered a blunt reaction Wednesday to a Southern California teacher's disparaging comments about American troops.

Speaking on Fox News Radio, Kelly, a retired four-star general, listened to Gregory Salcido's viral classroom rant - in which the high school teacher and Pico Rivera city councilman called members of the military "the lowest of our low" - and said: "Well, I think the guy ought to go to hell. I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyles that we fought for."

Salcido has become the subject of harsh criticism - and, he says, violent threats - over a video in which he's heard insulting members of the military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The video was reportedly taken during a history class Salcido was teaching at El Rancho High School, as he launched into a rant about how long the wars overseas have dragged on.

"Because we have a bunch of dumbs-s over there," Salcido said in the video, which is peppered with profanity. "Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They're dumbs-s. They're not like high-level thinkers, they're not academic people, they're not intellectual people. They're the lowest of our low."

Amid mounting backlash - including calls for his firing - Salcido has been condemned by his fellow council members and placed on administrative leave by the school district, whose superintendent has said "there will be disciplinary measures taken."

A special Tuesday-night school board meeting in Pico Rivera, a small city on the outskirts of Los Angeles, was "standing room only," according to a reporter who covered it, and some attendees wore military garb or brought American flags. "Several people in the audience wanted to speak directly to why Salcido, 49, has not been fired," the Whittier Daily News reported.

But the newspaper noted that Salcido's comments were not among the two items on the brief agenda, and El Rancho Unified School District Board President Aurora Villon said near the start of the meeting that "we will not entertain public comments that are not part of the agenda. So at this point, we will move on."

That did not sit well with the attendees, who wanted to talk about Salcido.

"I don't understand why it's not going to be a topic of discussion," said one attendee in a Navy hoodie. "This is why you have so many people here. . . . You should allow us to speak."

Meeting attendees cheered.

"At this point we're going to move on," Villon said.

People weren't having it, slamming Salcido and berating the board.

"As your elected officials, you need to give us an opportunity to talk, to discuss this," Villon pleaded, before noting that comments about Salcido will be welcome at the school board's next regular meeting, on Feb. 6 at Pico Rivera City Hall.

The Daily News wrote that Los Angeles County sheriff's officials "are anticipating huge crowds" there and at the Pico Rivera City Council meeting a week later.

There is also a Friday protest being organized through Facebook: "Remove Councilman Gregory Salcido from El Rancho High school.

"Patriots from all over Southern California are uniting at El Rancho High School to stand up for the men and women of our American Military, in support of students, and to ensure the faculty is being held accountable for false indoctrination and not meeting the ethical standards our students deserve," the protest organizers wrote.

The Salcido video appears to have been surreptitiously recorded. It was published Friday on Facebook by a woman who tagged the post from Connecticut and said the student who filmed it was a friend's son. She urged her followers to help her "make this go viral," and the video spread widely, with millions of views, after it was picked up by conservative media outlets, including Fox News and Breitbart.

The person taking the video - identified in local media reports as an El Rancho High senior whose father is a veteran - appears to be wearing a Marines sweatshirt.

"So, if you join the military, it's because you had no other options," Salcido is heard saying. "It's because you didn't take care of business academically, because your parents didn't love you enough to push you and then you didn't love yourself enough to push yourself."

The El Rancho Unified School District has not responded to requests for comment.

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