Islip Town Board member Trish Bergin Weichbrodt faced harsh criticism Saturday for a Facebook post that some are calling racist, in which she suggested taking her children to three countries that President Donald Trump had reportedly referred to with a vulgarity.
Bergin Weichbrodt, a Republican first elected in 2009, had written on her Facebook page Friday night: “I’m looking at warm getaways for kids February break. I’m wondering about El Salvador, Haiti or Somalia #recommendations?”
She later referred to the posting as a “joke” and apologized on Facebook to anyone who was offended by her remarks.
In an Oval Office meeting with congressional lawmakers this month, Trump reportedly derided protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to lawmakers in the room. Trump reportedly suggested that the United States bring in more people from countries such as Norway, which has a largely Caucasian population.
In a text message to Newsday on Saturday, Bergin Weichbrodt said after speaking to “some of my friends from El Salvador,” she “recognized that my sarcasm was hurtful and I recognized that I needed to apologize.”
She added: “My point was that while these counties are beautiful places that we would all love to vacation in, we can’t because they are unsafe. I should have said just that, as opposed to being sarcastic about it. My heart goes out to all people living in unsafe places and I shouldn’t have addressed the issue with sarcasm.”
In a statement, Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter and the GOP-controlled town board called the remarks “inexcusable. The people of these countries have suffered immeasurable hardships and these type of comments demonstrate a level of insensitivity that we find truly offensive . . . We stand with the . . . rest of our community in demanding not only an apology, but an explanation.”
Some Democratic Suffolk lawmakers and minority advocates condemned Bergin Weichbrodt’s remarks. Lucas Sánchez, director of the Long Island office for New York Communities for Change, a progressive group that advocates for low-income families, called the post “embarrassing” and a “slap in the face” to all of her constituents. He called on Bergin Weichbrodt to step down from her council post.
“It speaks to the homegrown racism that exists on Long Island,” Sánchez said. “And, it’s an affront to communities of color across Long Island.”
DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague), presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, and Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) held a news conference at Islip Town Hall on Saturday to condemn the remarks and encourage Bergin Weichbrodt to join them in meeting with immigrant district residents.
“I found her comments to be disturbing; to be disgusting,” said Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants. “She as a public official should be representing all people.”
Gregory said the Facebook post could damage public safety as law enforcement attempts to gain support in minority communities against MS-13.
“You lose credibility and moral integrity when you try to go into the community and say, ‘We want to be partners with you,’ ” he said. “People won’t be responsive to that message when you have a public official denigrating whole entire countries without any factual basis and perpetuating racial ethnic stereotypes of the worst kind.”
Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) called the post “a cheap Trump-like attempt to curry political favor appealing to some people’s worse instincts.”
Dozens of residents also posted angry responses to Bergin Weichbrodt’s post, while others on Bergin Weichbrodt’s Facebook page defended the comments, arguing that they were funny and that critics were being overly sensitive.
A former journalist, Bergin Weichbrodt has been cited as a potential candidate for State Senate if two-term GOP incumbent Tom Croci does not seek re-election. She is an Islip Republican Party committee member.
She had initially responded on Facebook to the criticism by saying: “Are some of my loved ones not getting my joke??”
But as criticism mounted Saturday, Bergin Weichbrodt took down the controversial post. “I have learned that my Facebook post yesterday offended some of you. Please accept my sincere apology,” a message on her Facebook page read.
With Víctor Manuel Ramos