Councilmember Jeff Hayner (D-Ward 1) is at the center of a recall after his use of a homophobic slur in a quote on social media which attacked journalists. The district’s electoral commission will review the recall petition, which was started by registered voter Ariah Shugat, at 8:30pm on May 11.
Around April 10, Hayner quoted Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson in a Facebook group, Ann Arbor Politics. A user in the group shared an article by John Hiner, an editor at MLive.com. The article centered on the online harassment Hiner and other journalists have experienced. Hayner and others commented on Hiner’s perspective and mocked Hiner and other journalists. The comments posted by Hayner included the following quote: “The press is a gang of cruel f——. Journalism is not a profession or a trade…” The comment was later removed by Facebook.
Jeff Hayner is no stranger to social media exploits. Much like other modern-day politicians, Council Member Hayner has used social media as a way to connect directly with the public. He has even gone on his Facebook page to comment about the recall but has yet to speak with anyone from the press about it.
Hayner’s use of the language in the quote has been condemned by his peers and constituents. Council Member Travis Radina (D-Ward 3) wrote Hayner after hearing about the comment and asked Council Member Hayner to publicly apologize because of the damage that word has done to some of Hayner’s constituents and residents. Hayner instead tried to justify the use of the word. Hayner claimed the use of the word was justified because it was a quote. A few days later, Hayner did make a public apology for the use of the quote.
However, this apology was too late. A registered voter in Hayner’s ward, Ariah Shugat, has filed a petition to recall Council Member Hayner. “This recall campaign is not about Hayner,” Shugat mentions on the Recall Hayner Twitter page. “This campaign is about restoring the trust of the LGBTQ community, that’s where I want the focus to be. Homophobic and transphobic language should be swiftly and unanimously condemned.”
Shugat is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in Ann Arbor and was affected by the statements made by the Council Member. Shugat worked to help keep citizens in our community safe and comfortable. “Public figures quoting homophobic language fosters an unsafe environment for LGBTQ folk. I know people today who won’t openly identify because they fear hostile reactions from family and strangers alike.”
Recall elections are only held on May and November election dates. Signatures on a recall request that is more than 60 days old when submitted are invalid. In a pertinent part, the petition reads, “On or around April 10, 2021, Jeff Hayner posted to social media a quote about journalists that included a homophobic slur. The city council then imposed sanctions by stripping him of committee appointments until December of 2021.”
The district’s electoral commission is set to meet via Zoom at 8:30pm on Tuesday, May 11. The meeting is to review the petition language for clarity and objectivity. If the petition is approved, Shugat will then need to collect 2,264 signatures from Ward 1 voters by 5pm on July 30 to force a special recall election in November.