LGBTQ advocates are demanding that Trenton Councilwoman Robin Vaughn resign from office after she launched into a homophobic-laced tirade against Mayor Reed Gusciora and her fellow council members.
During a conference call between the New Jersey city’s leaders and heads of various departments intended to address how the city was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gusciora challenged Vaughn to name one of the city’s “do-nothing” nonprofit organizations that receive public funding without delivering tangible results, something she criticized in a recent Facebook post.
Vaughn began spouting curse words and personal insults, and the two engaged in back-and-forth name calling, with Gusciora calling Vaughn a “child” and an “idiot,” and Vaughn calling him “incompetent.”
Vaughn then called Gusciora, the city’s first openly gay mayor, a “motherfucking drug addict pedophile” and told him to “get the fuck out of Trenton.”
Gusciora threatened to sue Vaughn, but she continued her tirade, over the objections of others on the call, who began asking the city clerk to end the call, according to The Trentonian, which posted audio of the full call on its website.
The councilwoman accused Gusciora of “running around with young boys,” called him a “pedophile” and said “the only thing [Gusciora] brought into City Hall is a bunch of young boys, and they’re sitting up there in the mayor’s suite.”
Gusciora told Vaughn she needed a “lobotomy” and called her a “little asshole,” and she fired back that he was “nothing but a bitch.”
When Councilman Joe Harrison called out Vaughn’s behavior, she responded by telling him that he and Gusciora weren’t “real men” and said, “Continue to suck Reed Gusciora’s dick all you want to, motherfucker.”
Harrison and Vaughn then continued to spar, with Harrison calling her names and Vaughn attacking Harrison’s family, telling him to “go ask your whore-a** mom who your father is,” among other insults. She also told Harrison that he’s backing a loser by supporting Gusciora, saying he should “bend over a little lower” for the mayor before eventually hanging up.
Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s top LGBTQ organization, called for Vaughn’s resignation, calling her “unfit to serve the people of Trenton.
“There’s no need to parse words here: for her hateful anti-LGBTQ language and defending the anti-Semitic slurs of others, she must resign,” Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, said in a statement, referring to an incident in which several members of the Council came under fire for defending Council President Kathy McBride’s comment that a city attorney had tried to “Jew her down.”
“[Vaughn’s] words are an attack on the diversity of Trenton’s community, the city’s elected leadership, and our state as a whole,” Fuscarino added. Any decent-minded New Jerseyan who believes in the success and future of our state’s capital should denounce this hateful rhetoric and call for her to step down immediately.”
In a statement posted to her Twitter page, Vaughn didn’t deny making the homophobic slurs, but alleged that The Trentonian was doing Gusciora’s bidding.
“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,” she wrote.
She later accused the newspaper of a “double standard” in a Facebook post after it reported on Gusciora using several cuss words when criticizing Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes for a poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic, implying that the calls for her resignation were racially motivated.
“Same newspaper. Same reporter. Same cuss words. Different speakers. Different treatment. No one called for Reed Gusciora to resign. Figure it out.”
But fellow Democrat and U.S. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who is also African-American, condemned Vaughn’s remarks, saying in a statement: “There’s no place for an elected official who hurls homophobic slurs or cast aspersions on colleagues’ parents. It’s disgusting and the people of Trenton deserve better.”
Watson was one of those who had previously condemned Vaughn and others on the Council for defending McBride’s anti-Semitic remark.
Watson Coleman’s GOP challenger, Old Bridge Councilman Mark Razzoli, also issued a statement questioning why Vaughn was still in office.
“The fabric of New Jersey communities is rich with diversity and nothing less than inclusiveness will be tolerated,” Razzoli said. “Anyone who exhibits an obvious prejudice toward our citizens for their religious beliefs or sexual orientation, has no place in public office. For an elected official to perpetuate an already flippant culture of sexual abuse, anti-Semitism, and anti-gay sentiment is unconscionable, and I call on Ms. Vaughn to resign her position.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which advocates for the election of openly LGBTQ officials, also called out Vaughn’s behavior and demanded her 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. It is now a pattern, and her use of and support of such hateful language proves she is entirely unfit to hold public office,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement.
“As one of the few openly LGBTQ mayors in New Jersey and one of the first public officials to advocate for marriage equality, Mayor Gusciora has developed tough skin and will continue to lead,” Parker added. “But for the many LGBTQ kids in the West Ward who already struggle to take pride in who they are, we call on Trenton city leaders to unite in demanding the resignation of Councilwoman Vaughn.”
Parker did not completely absolve Gusciora or other officials for their behavior, saying it was “sad” that an important briefing on the ongoing pandemic would “devolve into such pandemonium.”
“The presiding officer had a duty to call Vaughn to order or recess the meeting when she launched her screaming tirade, her colleagues had a responsibility to end the quorum until civility was restored, and the Mayor should have tempered his response,” Parker, herself a former mayor of Houston, added. “But what is clear is that Vaughn is toxic and unfit to serve in an elective body.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!