Islip councilwoman’s joke faces backlash
ISLIP TOWN—Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt caused a little bit of a stir on Saturday after she made reference on Facebook to countries President Donald Trump allegedly called “shitholes.”
“I’m looking at warm getaways for kids February break,” Bergin Weichbrodt wrote. “I’m wondering about El Salvador, Haiti or Somalia #recommendations?”
Democratic Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) criticized the joke on her Facebook page, adding she was flooded with messages from constituents in her district and residents across Suffolk County in regards to the Islip councilwoman’s post. “[I’m] not sure if it was a joke or not, but either way it was upsetting to many,” Martinez wrote. “These are lives of individuals who are here in the U.S. trying to do the right thing; hard workers, business owners, homeowners, our dreamers who are in school, attending college in order to better themselves and become part of the American fabric.”
Bergin Weichbrodt initially responded to the criticism on Facebook by writing, “Are some of my loved ones not getting my joke?”
But as the controversy spread, with talks of a possible rally outside Islip Town Hall on Tuesday to protest her statement, Bergin Weichbrodt issued an apology. “I have learned my Facebook post offended some of you,” she wrote. “Please accept my apology.”
At Tuesday’s town board meeting, Democratic Suffolk County Legislator presiding officer DuWayne Gregory said the Islip councilwoman shouldn’t take his criticism as being “adversarial,” but asked that she have a “better understanding of where the hurt and the harm comes from.” He said her comments were insensitive to “those who have suffered immensely to the likes that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” and hoped this could be a “teachable moment to learn about the fighting spirit and resolve of these families who have come to this great country.”
Republican Suffolk County Legis. Robert Trotta, on the other hand, cared very little about Bergin Weichbrodt’s Facebook post. He said her comment “pales in comparison to what happened to this town,” pointing to the heroin use and gun crimes which have risen drastically. “I felt obligated to come here and tell the public and tell the citizens of this county that we have failed them,” Trotta said, adding that he quit his job with the FBI Violent Task Force to come to the Suffolk County Legislator, where he feels his efforts have “fallen on deaf ears,” mainly at the hands of Democrats.
Caitlyn Eng, along with several others, defended Bergin Weichbrodt, saying her comments shouldn’t be taken as racist. “Trish supported my adoption journey,” Eng said. “If it wasn’t for her, I don’t think my adopted child would be here today.” Bergin Weichbrodt has since become the child’s godmother.
Randy Weichbrodt, the councilwoman’s husband and registered Democrat, said her comments weren’t “racially charged” and that El Salvadorians, Haitians, and Somalis aren’t races, they’re ethnic groups. Weichbrodt then asked those in attendance to visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website and see the security risks from the countries referenced. “These are not judgments,” he said, “these are facts.”
Samuel Gonzalez, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 1430), asked those in attendance to imagine living in a world where everything you do is “observed and judged.” He then stated Bergin Weichbrodt’s “joke” might have been said in a passive way, but it was also a sign of racial indifference, which he feels is everywhere in our society. Gonzalez, who lost his bid last year for a town council seat, also called for Bergin Weichbrodt to resign from her post.
Holbrook resident Donald Urquhart asked Bergin Weichbrodt to be more mindful of her comments, which he said reminded him of those made by controversial American political figure George Wallace. “I don’t judge you,” Urquhart said. “I simply ask you to be guided by your better angels.”
During the closing moments of the public forum, Bergin Weichbrodt once again apologized for her comments. She said the struggles of those coming from these “treacherous” and “underprivileged” countries aren’t lost on her because her parents are immigrants. “At the core of all of us, we just want good things for our children, safe environments for all of us,” Bergin Weichbrodt said. “I just find it unfortunate that some of the texts and comments were taken in a way that I didn’t intend them.”
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