Photo via Seattle Times
UPDATE 12:02 PST — Kathlyn Ehl resigned on Wednesday after “an exchange between Ms. Ehl and the leaders of the campaign’s Asian American Coalition,” according to Patch.com.
The McKenna camp issued a statement, saying “her ongoing involvement on the campaign would be a constant reminder of her lapse in judgment.”
The hashtag can be the deciding factor between a chuckle and outrage in the Twitter community. No one knows this better than Kathlyn Ehl, who is receiving backlash for a racist tweet she posted over six months ago.
A campaign staffer under Washington state gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, Ehl tweeted “shut up and speak english #asians” but deleted it soon after it was uncovered by local alternative weekly The Stranger.
In an apology released to the Seattle Times, Ehl wrote, “These insensitive comments were harmful not just to those groups which I mentioned in the tweets, but also to my family, friends and my co-workers. For causing that pain, I am sorry. My actions were not just unfortunate, they were offensive. It is a lesson to others that social media comments made in frustration not only can hurt others, but they exist long after the moment has passed.”
The recent graduate from the University of Washington will reportedly keep her job as a policy assistant to McKenna, said campaign manager Randy Pepple to the Times.
In response, candidate McKenna released the following statement on Monday.
“The fact that she made the comments before joining my campaign does not make them any less hurtful to Asian Americans and the elderly. They were insensitive and wrong regardless of their context. She has done the right thing by apologizing,” he wrote. “I am hopeful that she has learned a humbling lesson that will give her greater perspective about having charity in her heart when considering the challenges faced by others.”
Owen Lei, spokesman for the Seattle nonprofit Asian Counseling and Referral Service, told the Seattle Times in a statement that they were “discouraged” by the racist tweet.
“If it were that easy to ‘shut up and speak English,’ we wouldn’t be helping tens of thousands of people a year with multilingual counseling services, ESL job training and legal translation to guide them through various roadblocks,” Lei said. ”It appears the staffer in this incident was venting personal opinions and has since apologized for her actions. We will respect her apology, as long as it’s based not in shame over potentially making her boss look bad, but rather in a genuine desire to understand the challenges of the groups she targeted and in her own clarity of how hurtful those comments can be.”
Others were not as forgiving, as an opinion piece by Sharon Pian Chan of the Seattle Times called for Ehl’s dismissal.
Our editorial board endorsed McKenna, a Republican and Washington state’s attorney general, who is running against Democrat and former congressman Jay Inslee. This incident makes me wonder: If McKenna is willing to forgive and forget this behavior, what behavior would he tolerate in the office of the governor?