Trenton, New Jersey Councilwoman Robin Vaughn survived a council censure vote on Tuesday after audio hit the web of her calling the city’s first-ever gay Mayor Reed Gusciora a “pedophile,” “a woman,” a “b*tch *ss” during an insult fight with him and fellow City Councilman Joe Harrison on a call that was supposed to be about the city’s coronavirus response. Vaughn also told Harrison to “continue to suck Reed Gusciora’s d*ck all you want to, motherf*cker.”
While many called on Vaughn to resign in light of her homophobic comments, five out of seven council members voted against censuring her.
Concurrently, Gusciora has since had his safety threatened by Trump-supporting Twitter users — something he has reported to police — and the City Clerk Dwayne Harris has resigned after another city councilman, George Muschal, threatened to audit his office after accusing Harris of lying about the availability of funding for council aides.
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In short, the entire Trenton City Council sounds absolutely bonkers.
The failed censure vote against Vaughn and the publisher defending her
Harrison called for Tuesday’s censure vote, and he and fellow Councilman Jerell Blakeley were the only ones to vote against Vaughn. After his failed vote, Blakely blasted his fellow council members as “a slew of bigots” for not condemning her homophobia.
Council President Kathy McBride reminded Blakely that he was no better, having once almost physically accosted Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson after calling her an “old hag.”
Harrison has threatened legal action against Vaughn and other council members for allegedly “making hateful and demeaning comments about his family” but hasn’t yet taken any actual legal actions against them.
A local Black newspaper publisher, Kamau Kujichagulia — publisher of Nubian News, the “lone bilingual African-American newspaper in New Jersey” — jumped to Vaughn’s defense stating that her homophobic comments came from her passionate self-defense against the mayor’s insults labeling her “a child,” an “idiot,” a “little “a**hole” and telling her she needed “a lobotomy.”
“I’m against racism in any form,” Kujichagulia said of Gusciora and Harrison, who are both white.
“When you call somebody ‘Radioactive (Robin),’ you’re saying you’re loud, you’re unruly. When you call someone an idiot, you’re saying they’re ignorant. Put all that together, it’s like calling someone the N-word. I understand precisely why she was offended, terribly offended by what the mayor and Harrison said.”
“I’m not saying Robin was right in saying what she said,” Kujichagulia added. “But the mayor was wrong in what he said.”
The mayor has since apologized for insulting Vaugh, stating, “I should have been professional at all times. I’m a human being like anyone else.”
Kujichagulia organized a pro-Vaughn protest Thursday morning outside of City Hall that could violate Governor Phil Murphy’s ban on social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. Gusciora said Kujichagulia should be holding “protest against [Vaughn’s] voting pattern that is the antithesis of what is good for Trenton.”
Twitter threats against the gay mayor reported to police
Gusciora also reported threats he had received online to local police. Twitter users repeated Vaughn’s line about Gusciora being a pedophile as if it were fact. One user thanked Vaughn for “exposing a criminal and a pedophile,” adding, “Our country’s leadership has been infiltrated and controlled by pedophiles for long enough. That is the REAL pandemic.”
Another more threatening tweet read, “We, the people, don’t play that pedophile sh*t. Welcome to the club pervert. Now you’re exposed and in case word doesn’t travel fast where you’re at, there’s a storm comin’.”
Yea, We the People, don’t play that pedophile shit. Welcome to the club pervert. Now you’re exposed and in case word doesn’t travel fast where you’re at, there’s a storm comin
— Soco Fa Sho (@ShoSoco) May 4, 2020
“I’m not one to waste police time,” Gusciora said, “but at the same time, when someone says there’s a storm coming and you have a couple of dozen people identify themselves as MAGA, and you get that experience with Pizzagate, I don’t know if MAGA is code for, ‘Let’s get this guy next.'”
However, the mayor said he isn’t afraid for his life. “If I was fearful for my life, I’d be taking off for Vermont and growing a beard,” he said.
Vaughn’s apology and the city clerk caught in the council’s crossfire
Vaughn issued an apology on Wednesday, stating, “I am deeply and specifically sorry for the language that has offended so many. It was also not my intent to attack anyone of the basis of any classification or personal preferences… the language used and statements were not appropriate and I regret letting my emotions get the best of me.”
“It was wrong and I own that,” she continued, adding that it’s her duty to “represent with dignity, decency and respect all persons,” apologizing to her fellow council members and the public for the council’s being “collectively ineffective” in using the phone call to insult one another rather than deliver “critical information” on the city’s coronavirus efforts.
Lastly, City Clerk Dwayne Harris resigned amid the furor over Vaughn’s comments after Councilman George Muschal threatened to audit Harris’ office for allegedly giving funds to Vaughn to help her pay for her council aide worker while not giving Muschal money to pay his aide – who is also his wife.
Harris responded, “You can go right upstairs to the CFO’s office at any time and look at the amounts appropriated in the accounts, look at the vendors paid, and look at the balances, and I am CERTAIN they are in line. Please don’t put me in the middle of whatever disagreement you have had with the other Council members.”
Councilman Blakely said of Harris, “Who could blame [Harris] for wanting nothing to do with a municipal council that embarrasses itself on a regular basis. Our loss as a city is some other lucky municipality’s gain.”