Governor’s spokeswoman is out after controversial tweet

Governor’s spokeswoman is out after controversial tweet

Berry, Hobbs, tweet, Twitter, transphobic,
Josselyn Berry is pictured here on the left in happier times with Gov. Katie Hobbs. Berry was a spokeswoman for Hobbs, but resigned under pressure on Tuesday after tweeting an image of a woman brandishing handguns with the caption: “Us when we see transphobes.” (Photo courtesy of Facebook via Daily Mail)

A spokeswoman for Gov. Katie Hobbs resigned under pressure on Tuesday after tweeting an image of a woman brandishing handguns with the caption: “Us when we see transphobes.”

In a statement on Wednesday morning, the governor’s office indicated that Josselyn Berry had resigned the night before and distanced Hobbs from the online posting.

“The Governor does not condone violence in any form,” the short news release stated. “This administration holds mutual respect at the forefront of how we engage with one another. The post by the Press Secretary is not reflective of the values of the administration.”

Berry sent the tweet on Monday night as part of a thread that criticized members of the Democratic Party who aren’t supportive of certain transgender policies. Berry uploaded an animated image, or GIF, featuring a clip from the 1980 film “Gloria” in which actress Gena Rowland points a pair of pistols at an off-screen antagonist.

Murphy Hebert, Hobbs’ communications director, said in a text message that the governor had asked Berry to resign. Berry didn’t immediately reply to a call seeking comment.

The post came the same day that a school shooter armed with an AR-15 assault rifle killed three children and three adults at a Christian school in Nashville, Tenn. Local police identified the shooter as transgender.

Arizona Republican officials condemned the tweet, arguing it amounted to a call to political violence and was particularly offensive in the context of the Nashville shooting.

“This is an outrage. No question,” tweeted GOP strategist Daniel Scarpinato, a one-time chief of staff to Hobbs’ predecessor former Gov. Doug Ducey. “12 hours after the shooting in Tennessee, the spokeswoman for Gov. Hobbs shared her feelings about what to do to people who disagree with her political views: Shoot them.”

By Wednesday morning, Berry was gone from the governor’s office and the tweet had been taken down from Twitter, replaced with a note that said the post had “violated Twitter rules.”

Berry had served as Hobbs’ principal spokeswoman since she took office earlier this year. Before that, she worked for the Arizona Democratic Party; the Senate Democratic caucus; and the progressive lobbying group Arizona Progress Now.

Republican consultant Barrett Marson said the quick departure was the appropriate response.

“It might have been painful, but tearing the band-aid off was the right way to go,” he wrote in a text message.

It’s not the first time that Berry has courted controversy online.

In 2020, in a news release following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers, Berry quoted activist Assata Shakur, who was convicted of murder for her role in the shooting death of a New Jersey state trooper. The statement was retracted following complaints from Republicans, including Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge.

Transgender issues have been the source of fiery partisan debate in Arizona and around the country in recent years. Last year, Ducey signed a pair of bills that restricted transgender athletes’ participation in sports and put age limits on gender-related surgeries. Democrats fiercely criticized that move and Republican efforts this year to ban books that mention transgender people.

The incident set off another round of discussion about partisan politics and alleged media bias at the state Capitol.

Scarpinato said that when Republicans have used violent language online, it’s gotten more blowback. When Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, called for building a “gallows” for her political enemies, he noted, she was censured by a bipartisan vote and the comments received significant news coverage.

“I think people who are more right-of-center feel like all those things get covered wall to wall – there’s huge outrage from the media. And then this goes completely ignored,” he said.

But Democratic strategist Stacy Pearson said the real consequences for off-color comments are skewed in the other direction.

“This is par for the course, where Democrats hold themselves to a higher standard than their Republican counterparts,” she said. “A Republican would have offered flippant apologies to anyone offended, and a Democrat in the same position resigned.”