A Pennsylvania state fair faced condemnation from state leaders after featuring a dunk tank with a man dressed as a woman in an apparent jab at PA Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is transgender.
Bloomsburg, a town along the Susquehanna River about 40 miles southwest of Wilkes-Barre, holds one of Pennsylvania’s largest state fairs every year. In a carnival held on the fairgrounds last weekend, the local fire department raised money with a dunk tank featuring their fire chief decked out in a flowery dress, as reported by The Associated Press.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, the Bloomsburg Fair Association later wrote, “Dr. Levine? Thank you, you were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you,” to which was appended a smiley face emoji. “Thanks everyone that came out to support our local fire companies.”
The Pennsylvania Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, is a transgender woman. The Bloomsburg Fair in PA had a man dressed up as her in their dunk tank today. The fair has since deleted the post, but they have made no statement on using blatant transphobia to raise money. pic.twitter.com/1VpJDPAlxG
— Mikaela (@Iris_and_Honey) July 20, 2020
After the event began stoking backlash on social media, Fair President Randy Karschner denied that any resemblance to Levine was intentional, saying, “A fellow dressed up in a dress to get people to throw balls at the dunk tank to raise money. It turned into where people thought we were offending Dr. Rachel Levine, and that was no intention at all.”
The man in the dress, Main Township Fire Chief David Broadt, likewise maintained that there was no malicious intent behind his costume, telling a local newspaper that he was “going for a Marilyn Monroe look” until members of the crowd began calling him Levine and asking where his mask was.
“It was just in fun,” Broadt said. “It wasn’t done to disrespect her.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) condemned the dunk tank, tweeting Monday, “Dr. Levine is an honorable public servant whose tireless work to keep PA safe and healthy has saved countless lives. She is owed an apology. Hate and bigotry have no place in our society. The members of the Pennsylvania transgender community are our neighbors and friends. Treat them that way.”
Hate and bigotry have no place in our society. The members of the Pennsylvania transgender community are our neighbors and friends. Treat them that way.
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) July 21, 2020
Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf echoed Casey in a three-tweet thread on Wednesday, writing, “I want to talk about the transphobic incident involving the Bloomsburg Fair. This is the latest in a relentless series of vile slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine — a highly skilled and accomplished member of my administration.”
“Dr. Levine is a distinguished public servant,” Wolf continued. “She’s committed to keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy, even those who direct hate-fueled attacks at her. I’m proud of the work she has done in her five years serving Pennsylvanians, and especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Hate has no place in Pennsylvania. I’m calling on all Pennsylvanians: Speak out against hateful comments and acts, including transphobia, when you see them.”
I want to talk about the transphobic incident involving the Bloomsburg Fair.
This is the latest in a relentless series of vile slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine — a highly skilled and accomplished member of my administration.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) July 22, 2020
Hate has no place in Pennsylvania.
I’m calling on all Pennsylvanians: Speak out against hateful comments and acts, including transphobia, when you see them.
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) July 22, 2020
Wolf broke his own state’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions on June 3, when he marched in solidarity with hundreds of protesters in Harrisburg following the death of George Floyd. In Harrisburg’s Dauphin County, gatherings were restricted to 25 people or less at the time, according to Pennsylvania’s color-coded reopening plan.
Levine defended the governor’s apparent hypocrisy, saying, “The governor has always said that people have the right to protest, and to demonstrate, and the right to free speech, and so overall, we want large gatherings such as maybe a party or some type of concert or something, to be under 250 people.”
“But, we are not restricting people’s right to protest,” Levine added. “There are all obviously significant social issues that are present, that people feel that they need to have a voice, and so the governor is always supportive of that and is participating.”
PA Health Sec. won’t allow the state to reopen or people to gather – and the Gov. who said businesses that disobey are cowards as he marches in protests himself – actually tries to legitimize limitless protests in the street while standing by restrictions. pic.twitter.com/4jKwJGBtpG
— Chris Stigall (@ChrisStigall) June 3, 2020
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