Islip Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt said she would not resign Tuesday after protesters called for her to step down over a Facebook post critics have characterized as racist.
Bergin Weichbrodt declined to comment further after about 35 people gathered outside Town Hall, chanting “We don’t want no explanation, we just want your resignation.”
On Friday night, Bergin Weichbrodt, a Republican, had written: “I’m looking at warm getaways for kids February break. I’m wondering about El Salvador, Haiti or Somalia #recommendations?” She later deleted the post, which she referred to as a joke and apologized to those she offended.
President Donald Trump reportedly referred to El Salvador, Haiti and African countries as “shithole countries” earlier this month in an Oval Office meeting on immigration.
The Islip protesters had gathered after a town board meeting, where several supporters — including Bergin Weichbrodt’s husband, Randy — defended her as respectful and caring.
“Asking her to step down from the Town of Islip is a mistake because she fights for all of us,” Bay Shore resident Debra Jansson said.
Bergin Weichbrodt told the packed meeting room that she understood “the plight of immigrants in this country.” She noted that her parents are immigrants, although “they certainly didn’t walk here either, like some of the folks who are coming from some of these very underprivileged nations.”
“At the core, all of us just want good things for our children, safe environments for all of us, and I just find it unfortunate that some of the texts and comments were taken in a way that I didn’t intend them,” Bergin Weichbrodt said.
Suffolk County Legislators DuWayne Gregory and Robert Trotta attended the meeting to speak on the controversy. Gregory, a Democrat who is running for Congress, said he wanted Bergin Weichbrodt’s post to “be a teachable moment” while Trotta said he found the criticism of the post to be “disingenuous.”
“Whatever happened on Facebook pales to what happened to this community,” Trotta said, referring to growing gang violence.
Protesters said they could not ignore Bergin Weichbrodt’s post, especially because many immigrants from El Salvador and Haiti live in hamlets Central Islip and Brentwood.
“It’s kind of a slap in the face,” said protester Leanna Reyes of Brentwood.