Secretary: I didn’t see offensive words on photo

MARK MARONEY/Sun-Gazette This image of Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and President Donald Trump playing pickleball hung in the office of the mayor’s secretary for the past two years until City Council sent a joint statement to the mayor protesting it for being “offensive.” The Sun-Gazette found the image crumpled up and tossed in the office trash the day the statement was issued.

Dolores “Dee” Reed, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s secretary, on Monday told the Sun-Gazette that she could not decipher the phrase “Make America white again,” that appeared on a computer-generated image she had posted on the wall next to her desk for the past two years.

The image was the topic last week of a joint statement by all seven members of City Council criticizing the city administration for allowing an “offensive” image and message to be posted in her office.

Reed said the material arrived in her office two years ago in an unmarked envelope and she opened it to find what she thought was a “funny” depiction of Campana and then-candidate Donald Trump. Off to the right side of the two playing pickleball was a banner that showed the letters “MAKE AM” in the first line and “WHITE A” in the second line.

She said she thought she read “make America great again,” Trump’s campaign slogan, instead of “make America white again.”

Reed said she would have taken it down had she realized what it said and understood it was offensive. Rather than focus on the banner and its statement, Reed said her eyes focused on the image of the two politicians engaged in a game.

“I thought it was funny with the cutouts of the headshots of the mayor and Trump,” Reed said. “I never realized it had anything on it offensive or I wouldn’t have put it up.”

Last week, the creator of the material said he made it as political satire in opposition to the mayor, specifically regarding Campana’s decision to remove the basketball hoops at Memorial Park and replace them with pickleball courts.

After the story on council’s statement was published in Thursday’s edition, Campana contacted the Sun-Gazette and said council has one goal and that is to discredit him. The mayor pointed out the on-going charter commission process, which was begun by City Council, may change the city’s form of government based on ballot measures the voters will act on this fall.

He also claimed not to perceive the statement on the photo to be offensive, as council claimed.

He declined to comment further Monday.

“Everyone I have come across could easily discern the racist message incorporated into the altered photo,” said Jonathan Williamson, council president.

“I’m glad the mayor has finally seen it and decided to take it down,” Williamson said. Council isn’t obstructing the mayor or his policies, he said.

“Council feels it is important the public is aware when the mayor’s actions prevent substantive progress meeting the challenges the city faces, he said.”