A campaign consultant for Republican Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner accidentally included a reporter in a group text sharing an anti-transgender meme of Caitlyn Jenner.
Political strategist Ray Zaborney sent an image of Jenner over which is written, “Believe in something. Even if it means cutting your dick off.”
The meme is one of many currently circulating the internet that parody Nike’s new campaign, which has made headlines for including former NFL quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick.
Zaborney sent the message to Jason High, Wagner’s campaign manager; Jenise Harris, the campaign’s finance director; Shauna Boscaccy, its policy director; and a reporter from Billy Penn, who was not an intended recipient, the publication reports.
— Ray Zaborney (@raythemaverick) November 7, 2017
When Zaborney realized his mistake, he offered information on another story in exchange for the reporter agreeing to “forget” about the transphobic meme. While a text message appears to show Billy Penn reporter Max Marin initially saying he would go along with that deal, the Zaborney was later told the meme itself was considered newsworthy, and would not be “forgotten.”
“Anyone questioning my commitment to diversity or the LGBT community obviously doesn’t know me very well,” Zaborney said in a statement. “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 left the state senate last year to run for governor, and during his time there voted in favor of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would add protections for the LGBTQ community in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
He took heat for that vote during the primary, but last month made a comment about bathroom use that drew criticism and questions regarding his stance on transgender rights.
“It’s real simple,” Wagner said at a campaign event last month. “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.”
Following a backlash, his campaign said the candidate supports transgender bathroom choice, provided the individual has gone through the process of having their gender changed on their driver’s license.
In order to change a gender marker on one’s license in the state, the person making the request must submit a signed form from either a physician, nurse practitioner, therapist, or social worker, that certifies their gender identity.