Vargas rebukes man who made racist slur at county supervisors meeting

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WARNING: The video in this story contains profanity and racist remarks made during a public meeting that some viewers may find objectionable.

SAN DIEGO – San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas on Tuesday admonished a speaker during public comment who compared a county public health official to Aunt Jemima and told another supervisor he’d like to see her “hang from a tree.”

The speaker addressed the county’s Board of Supervisors in a discussion about the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his more than two minutes of remarks, the man took aim at the three supervisors who voted last month to approve a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for new hires in the county, telling Vargas he “couldn’t wait for her arteries to clog” and that Supervisor Nathan Fletcher should “kill himself.”

Vargas interrupted him after he made a series of racist remarks directed to the county’s public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.

“I’m sorry, you’re not allowed to say that to her,” Vargas said. “You’re not allowed to say that.”

The man responded to Vargas with a vulgar remark about her weight, to which she said, “You can call me fat all you want, but you are not allowed to say that. No, I’m sorry. The chair is not here and I’m going to ask you to apologize to her.”

But the man declined and continued, calling Vargas “garbage.”

“You are not allowed to talk to her that way,” she said. “You are not allowed to talk to her that way. No. Absolutely not. Not under my f—– watch.”

The man left the podium at Fletcher’s urging and was met with a smattering of cheers from other meeting attendees. Fletcher was not in the room when the comments began.

His remarks come in the midst of a contentious period of public comments made at Board of Supervisors meetings, largely in reference to the actions officials have taken to address the pandemic. In response, the board approved in September a measure declaring COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis and have employed a group of medical fact-checkers to counter false and otherwise misleading information.

The body also voted, 3-2, Tuesday to keep the vaccination mandate for new hires.

At the conclusion of public comment, Fletcher, Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer took turns addressing what had just happened.

“Some of you have legitimate points you have fair points that deserve to be heard,” Fletcher said. “But they are completely debased and completely erased with this for-fun or for-sport mindset on how racist can I be, how rude can I be to the staff, how absurd can I be.

“There’s gotta be some point — and those of you who cheer them on are just as guilty.”

Speaking after Fletcher, Vargas noted that her first action as a supervisor was to declare racism a public health crisis.

“I absolutely believe that people have a right to come and speak and as an elected official, I can take your names,” she said. “Call me fat. Call me whatever you want. But I will not tolerate racism, particularly I will not tolerate anti-Blackness. The comments today are hate speech; not free speech. That needs to stop.”

Video of the exchange can be viewed below in its entirety.

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