A campaign consultant to Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner apparently thinks it's OK to make fun of transgender people.
Ray Zaborney, a consultant recently hired by Wagner's campaign to handle media, last Thursday texted a Nike parody ad mocking Caitlyn Jenner to three top Wagner campaign staffers -- and, accidentally, to a reporter for the news website Billy Penn.
The parody ad, in the style of Nike's "Just Do It" advertisements, showed a black-and-white photo of Jenner with the text "Believe in something. Even if it means cutting your dick off." Many parodies of the Nike ads have come out in the past few days, since the company started running ads featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously protested racism by kneeling during the national anthem.
The meme was sent in a group text message to Wagner campaign manager Jason High, finance director Jenise Harris, and policy director Shauna Boscaccy, in addition to Billy Penn reporter Max Marin, who had been trying to reach Zaborney about an unrelated matter the previous day.
None of the staffers responded to the group message, according to Billy Penn, but Zaborney sent Marin a private message asking him to "forget" he sent the meme. Marin responded that the matter was newsworthy, especially since the meme went to high-ranking campaign workers, and he would not forget it.
High, Harris, and Boscaccy did not respond to Marin's requests for comment, but Zaborney issued the following statement: "Anyone questioning my commitment to diversity or the LGBT community obviously doesn't know me very well. I am a passionate believer in equality for all and have long been an advocate for marriage equality and ending discrimination in all forms against the LGBTQ community. I'm proud of my advocacy and proud of my efforts and will continue to stand for equality." Wagner could not be reached for comment.
Wagner, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf, has tried to position himself as an LGBTQ ally but has made some missteps. He endorsed the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, a pending piece of LGBTQ civil rights legislation, which Wolf also supports. Wagner's support of the act brought criticism from his rivals in the Republican primary, especially Paul Mango, who said the bill "puts our children's safety and privacy in jeopardy" because it would allow transgender Pennsylvanians access to the public restrooms of their choice, Billy Penn reports.
At a campaign event last month, Wagner tried to distance himself from any support of restroom choice, saying, "It's real simple. If you're born with male plumbing, you use the men's room. If you're born with female plumbing, you use the ladies' room. Period."
After Wagner's remark was denounced by the Human Rights Campaign and Pennsylvania LGBTQ groups, his campaign said he supports bathroom choice for trans people if they have changed the gender marker on their Pennsylvania driver's license, Billy Penn reports.