Two Utah State Senators apologize after homophobic tweets

An issue that has begun to generate more controversy is whether or not transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice in school.  In an effort to answer this, Utah Representative Michael Kennedy (R) has drafted a proposal that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom of their gender identity, but require a school to provide additional bathroom facilities upon request.  This is a legitimate, serious issue, and one that deserves to be treated with respect.  A Utah State Representative and an intern in the Utah State Senate, however, disagreed.

In a fit of genius, the staff of Utah State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (R) put an intern in charge of Niederhauser’s Twitter feed.  And that’s where things went downhill.

First, a tweet mocking transgendered people was sent out by Utah State Representative Jacob Anderegg (R).  Neiderhauser then responded with a similarly insensitive comment:

Utah State Senate Tweets

Oof.

Well, unlike some of our previously noted fails, both men apologized for their screwups.  Representative Anderegg referred to his comments as “totally inappropriate” in an apology tweet:

https://twitter.com/Political_Jake/status/430409670465814528

In a statement and subsequent interview, Senator Niederhauser apologized from the tweets and blamed them on an intern that “took some liberties,” saying, “It’s an embarrassing situation for me, and it’s an embarrassing situation for her,” Niederhauser said. “The tweet does not reflect anything I believe in. I have deep respect for the people in the LGBT community and continue to do so.”  Niederhauser then took it one step further, and in what I would call a smart and contrite move, and invited a group from Equality Utah to discuss the “sensitivity of LGBT issues.”

Two things here.  First, I’m genuinely impressed with Niederhauser’s comments.  He explained the situation (without making excuses), fully apologized, expressed his admiration for the cause that his Twitter account had previously mocked and then invited a leading LGBT group to discuss the issue.  Nicely done.

Second, and this is a general administrative comment: never, ever, EVER have an intern run a Social Media account!  Two reasons behind this.

  • First, an intern, usually a high school or college student, cannot be expected to have the maturity or experience necessary to run a Social Media account.  This is important stuff.  You would never have an intern speak at a press conference. Social Media should be treated the same way.
  • Second, come on, really?  It’s insulting to Social Media, and more importantly, to the people that you represent.  As I said yesterday, elected officials have a moral obligation to use Social Media.  I don’t think staff operating a Social Media account is necessarily a bad thing…Social Media is not for everyone “personally,” and as long as you are honest that tweets and posts come from the office of an elected official, not necessarily the elected official themselves, that’s okay.  However, then you have a trained professional with experience and know-how operate Social Media…not an intern who is, through not fault of their own, inexperienced and not fully aware of the dos, don’ts and history of an elected.

What are your thoughts?  Let us know in the comments!

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