McKenna staffer did the right thing by resigning over offensive tweets
A campaign staffer for gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna has resigned after criticism about earlier tweets she posted about Asians and elderly people.
McKenna's campaign said Wednesday it had suspended Kathlyn Ehl without pay while investigating the incident. It then accepted Ehl's resignation after talks between Ehl and the campaign's Asian American Coalition.
Ehl was hired as a policy assistant in April after volunteering for the campaign. The tweets, posted in January, were first reported by The Stranger's Slog. In tweets that are archived online, she said, "shut up and speak english #asians" and "if it takes you an entire green light to walk in front of my car GET A WHEELCHAIR #toooldtowalk."
Earlier this week, she sent an apology for the tweets, which had already been deleted from her Twitter account. Ehl did the right thing by apologizing, acknowledging the comments were painful, then resigning. Ehl could still have a career in politics, even if she can't figure out how to expunge these stories from Google search results. Contrary to what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, there are second acts in American life.
McKenna took 36 hours to wake up and smell the outrage. On Monday, he said he appreciated Ehl's apology. (See my earlier post for McKenna's Monday statement.)
On Tuesday, I called for McKenna's campaign to fire Ehl. I questioned what kind of behavior McKenna would tolerate in his office if he was elected. By Wednesday morning, Asian American groups were planning a protest.
Wednesday at 11:34 a.m., McKenna said her resignation had been accepted. The fact that his staff was investigating was not mentioned on Monday. That a suspension was underway was also not mentioned.
McKenna, a Republican who is running against former congressman Jay Inslee, is the state's attorney general. Our editorial board has endorsed McKenna's campaign for governor.
Here is the full statement from McKenna's campaign.
On Monday, the Rob McKenna for Governor campaign learned of two offensive tweets sent by a staff person, Kathlyn Ehl. Ms. Ehl started work as a campaign volunteer in April and, following her graduation from the University of Washington, became a paid policy assistant last month. Pending an investigation into these actions, which took place before she began volunteering on the campaign, Ms. Ehl was suspended without pay. Today, after facilitating an exchange between Ms. Ehl and the leaders of the campaign's Asian American Coalition, her resignation was accepted.
"I felt it was important to provide an opportunity for our Asian American Coalition leaders, who have spent countless hours over the last year working to advance our campaign in their community, to let Kathlyn know how hurtful her comments were to them," said Randy Pepple, McKenna's campaign manager. "It was important for her to thoroughly understand their feelings and to apologize to them for her comments.
"After consulting with the leaders of our Asian American Coalition, members of our Seattle Steering Committee, and several others I reached out to, I accepted Kathlyn Ehl's resignation from our campaign this morning," Pepple added.
"As the father of two young women, it pains me to accept the resignation of a young woman for a mistake which occurred before she had even begun her career. However, as we have said, and Kathlyn readily acknowledges, her tweets were offensive and insensitive. Kathlyn suggested, and I agreed after consultation with some of our campaign's grassroots leaders, that her ongoing involvement on the campaign would be a constant reminder of her lapse in judgment.
"Life teaches us difficult lessons, and sometimes at a very young age. My hope is that she will find some benefit from having learned this lesson now, as it will undoubtedly be a long-lasting one," Pepple concluded.
Pepple's decision came after a meeting had been arranged to encourage direct dialogue between Ms. Ehl and McKenna's Asian American Coalition and Seattle Steering Committee leaders.
"My fellow volunteers appreciated hearing from Ms. Ehl and the campaign's willingness to seek input from us," said W. Walter Liang, McKenna's Seattle-North King County Steering Committee chairman and Asian American Coalition co-chair. "My colleagues and I are confident Ms. Ehl's apology is sincere, but we also feel it is important to show the community that even an immature error cannot be overlooked when it has such a profound impact."
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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