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N.J. lawmaker under fire after homophobic rant about gay mayor

Trenton Councilwoman Robin Vaughn is facing calls to step down after her derogatory remarks about the city's mayor, Reed Gusciora.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusicora and New Jersey Councilwoman Robin Vaughn.
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusicora and New Jersey Councilwoman Robin Vaughn.Official photos

A New Jersey councilwoman is under fire after calling the first openly gay mayor of Trenton, the state's capital, a “pedophile” and “b--ch-ass” in a profane and homophobic outburst during a coronavirus conference call this weekend.

Councilwoman Robin Vaughn targeted Mayor Reed Gusciora on Saturday in a 54-minute call to update legislators on the number of coronavirus cases in the state, according to audio published by The Trentonian. Vaughn's remarks came after Gusciora asked her to explain a statement she made on social media about his support of “do nothing nonprofit organizations.”

In response, Vaughn said that the only thing Gusciora brought to City Hall was "a bunch of young boys, and they’re sitting up there in the mayor’s suite,” before calling him a “drug addict pedophile” who needs to “get the f--- out of office and get the f--- out of Trenton." She then accused a colleague, Councilman Joe Harrison, of having a sexual relationship with Gusciora and said neither were “real men.”

Gusciora, who was elected in 2018, told NBC News in an email that he regrets “interacting” with Vaughn during the call, given her “history of causing disruptions.”

“Government leaders at all levels will disagree on the best course of action, and sometimes emotions can get the best of us. But Councilwoman Vaughn chose to launch into a vitriolic attack full of homophobic slurs, false accusations, and hateful comments,” Gusciora wrote. “The toxic and harassing language used by the Councilperson has no place even in the most heated of arguments.”

Neither Harrison nor Vaughn immediately responded to requests for comment. Vaughn confirmed her comments on Twitter on Saturday and claimed that they’d been taken out of context.

"Trentonians, since I don't have the privilege of having friends who are owners and/or editors of newspapers who will only write good things about me or my side of a story, then I will request the full audio or transcript be released so you, the residents and taxpayers of Trenton, will have the full context of the conference call,” Vaughn wrote.

At least two LGBTQ advocacy groups are calling for Vaughn's resignation.

“Mayor Reed Gusciora has faced adversities serving not only as the first LGBTQ mayor of the state but as the first openly LGBTQ member of the state legislature and has had to repeatedly beat back homophobic remarks like Vaughn’s,” Jon Oliveira, a spokesman for Garden State Equality, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, told NBC News. “This is why we will stand by the mayor and are calling for Vaughn’s resignation.”

Oliveira said Vaughn has “a long history of demeaning remarks” and pointed to an incident last September when she initially defended Trenton City Council President Kathy McBride’s use of the phrase “Jew her down,” when referring to a city attorney. Following criticism, Vaughn apologized.

Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ leaders, also called for Vaughn's resignation.

“Councilwoman Vaughn relied on the oldest and ugliest of stereotypes to launch her homophobic tirade against Mayor Gusciora — much as she did in defending anti-Semitic comments last September,” Parker said in a statement. “It is now a pattern, and her use of and support of such hateful language proves she is entirely unfit to hold public office.”

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