Elaine Phillips and the Great Neck Republicans were not involved in an incident where two women verbally harassed Great Neck library trustee candidate Mimi Hu over transgender people, Phillips, the Phillips campaign and the chairman of the Great Neck Republicans all said.
Mimi Hu had posted a video of the incident in which it appears that two women, Mersedeh Rofeim and Valerie Shalit, were heard calling Hu a “communist fascist” and asking “Are you a man or a woman?” while she was at the Great Neck Plaza AutoFest and Street Festival with her 6-year-old son.
One of the women also said, “Take that s— to China,” apparently in response to support for transgender people.
In the backdrop of the video is a table for the Great Neck Republicans, with campaign signs for Elaine Phillips and Dan DeBono, Republicans running to represent State Senate District 7 and U.S. House District 3, respectively.
Hu later posted on Facebook that “in my hot anger” she had seen the two women with the Great Neck Republican table in the backdrop and demanded actions from Phillips. She said she later got phone calls from Phillips and Michael Pulitzer, the chairman of the Great Neck Republicans, after they learned of the incident.
“I learned that the people in the video were not members of the Republican committee and they are already disreputable in the Great Neck community (I didn’t know them),” Hu said. “When this incident happened, neither Mr. Pulitzer nor Ms. Phillips were at the scene.”
Hu also said she does not believe the two women – Mersedeh Rofeim and Valerie Shalit – were involved with the campaign and that, with midterm elections happening soon, she does “not want this event to be politicized.”
“If you watch it closely – these people are holding flyers of my opponent in the library election,” Hu said, referencing the video posted on her Facebook page. “I love our library and it saddens me that this happened. Please let us keep politics out of our library election and let books, ideas, and love flourish.”
Some people posted pictures on Hu’s public Facebook thread of Republicans gathered together, including with Shalit and Rofeim, from DeBono’s Twitter account and questioned the sincerity of the calls.
Shalit and Rofeim appear in the group pictures with DeBono, Phillips, Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral and others at the street fair.
Pulitzer, the chairman of the Great Neck Republican committee, said via email nobody from the organization was involved in the incident. He also attached Hu’s Facebook post and said further comment from him “would dishonor her request” to not bring politics into the Great Neck library elections.
Phillips confirmed the phone call with Hu, said the two women were in no way involved in her campaign and expressed “concern and outrage” over the incident.
“I was not there to see this incident firsthand, but immediately after learning of it, I personally called Mimi Hu to express my concern and outrage that she was the subject of such behavior by individuals who have no role in our campaign,” Phillips said. “As a mother, I am especially concerned that this occurred in front of a young child.”
“We all should work to elevate our public discourse and show respect and civility to one another,” she added.
Chris McKenna, a spokesman for the Phillips campaign, also stressed that Phillips “was nowhere near this incident and only learned of it later,” that the two women have no involvement in the Phillips campaign, and referenced Hu’s comments.
A spokeswoman for DeBono said on Thursday night the campaign also had “no idea” about the incident until now and that the issue will be raised with DeBono.
Anna Kaplan, a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 7 from Great Neck, also spoke out about the incident and described it as “an atrocious example of the unfortunate hatred and bigotry that persists in 2018.”
“I salute Candidate Hu on her ability to keep her composure and to respond to vile provocations with class and professionalism,” Kaplan posted on Facebook. “I unreservedly condemn the two women who attacked her and call for them to apologize to Hu and to Great Neck itself for bringing such disrepute upon the community.”