On Friday, Candi CdeBaca, a city councilwoman in Denver, shared a since-deleted tweet from a woman who joked about spreading covid-19 to supporters of President Trump. “For the record, if I do get the coronavirus I’m attending every MAGA rally I can,” the original tweet, posted from a now-locked Twitter account, said.
CdeBaca, who holds a nonpartisan office but describes herself as a democratic socialist, quoted the tweet and added, “#solidarity Yaaaas!!” followed by three crying-laughing emoji, a fist and the okay gesture.
Initially, the outspoken councilwoman’s comments attracted little attention, KUSA reported. But on Tuesday, conservative media outlets took notice. CdeBaca was labeled “simply disgusting” by the Colorado Republican Party, which called on Democrats to condemn her statement and for CdeBaca to resign immediately. Soon, the controversy had reached a national audience.
“These people are sick,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
As of early Wednesday morning, though, CdeBaca had neither resigned nor taken down the offending tweet, which had more than 11,000 replies, many of them calling her “disgusting” and “a sociopath.”
“Councilwoman CdeBaca made a sarcastic tweet on Twitter to call attention to the Trump administration’s downplaying of the Coronavirus outbreak as a ‘hoax’ no more dangerous than the common flu,” her office said in a statement to KDVR. “Rather than conservative outlets making a four-day-old tweet their focus on Super Tuesday, they should focus their energy on demanding a competent federal response to this public health crisis instead.”
But CdeBaca is also now facing criticism from her colleagues, Westword reported. Denver City Council President Jolon Clark told the paper, “Anytime we chip away at that ability for civil discourse and for differing views to be held valid and we turn to insult and injury, that’s something that hurts the bedrock of our democracy.”
She’s not the only one to get in trouble. On Monday, the New York Daily News reported that New York State Assembly staffer Marilyn Franks had shared a chain Facebook message that encouraged people to avoid Asian-owned businesses, which are already seeing their sales slump due to unfounded xenophobic rumors.
“We urge citizens to stay away from Chinese supermarkets, shops, fast food outlets, Restaurant, [sic] and Business,” the message said. “Most of the owners went back to China to celebrate the Chinese New [Year] Celebrations. They are returning and some are bringing along the Coronavirus.”
Franks works as an office assistant and receptionist for Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Brooklyn), according to the Daily News. The assemblywoman apologized on her behalf, telling the paper that the message “violates the core values of my office.”
“Crisis can bring out latent fears and prejudices, but that is when it is most important for us to come together,” Frontus added. “Ignorance is no excuse for spreading hateful messages.”
But the debacle didn’t end there. On Tuesday, Ronald X. Stewart, a member of Brooklyn Community Board 13, went off on a Facebook rant of his own, saying that Frontus should not have apologized.
“Ms. Frontus should not have apologize [sic] but as a stateswoman she did,” he wrote, according to the Daily News. “These Chinese restaurants in our community make millions of dollars off us.”
Stewart, who is black, went on to add, “They don’t hire us; don’t donate to any of our events and express racism against us. Yes I said all this now attack me!”
On Wednesday, Frontus announced that Franks had been fired. “Any expression of bigotry does not represent me, my values, or my record of fighting for racial unity and understanding,” she said in a statement. “In the midst of a public health crisis, in the heart of the most international city in America, we cannot afford panic and prejudice.”
And the problem is hardly unique to the United States. Last week, Luca Zaia, the regional governor of Veneto, Italy, claimed that Chinese people were to blame for the outbreak because they “eat live mice.” He has since apologized, according to Reuters.
This story has been updated.