An Arizona Democratic lawmaker came under attack from right-wing trolls after a man in a speedo and and black undershirt was seen behind him while he appeared on a Zoom call during a Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz, an openly gay man, was attending the supervisor meeting remotely while he was on a vacation cruise to Panama. At one point, the man in the undershirt and Speedo appeared behind Heinz, began lifting up his shirt, then froze, appearing to realize that Heinz was in a meeting. Heinz’s camera then quickly switched off.
None of the other supervisors addressed or referred to the man’s unexpected appearance behind Heinz.
Right-wing trolls — who had already targeted the Democratic-led board of supervisors for abuse over policy disagreements — soon began speculating about the man, claiming that the speedo was a “bikini” or “panties,” and asserting that the man may have been a sex worker. The mishap was then amplified by the right-wing publication Daily Caller, who described the man as “half-naked” and wearing “female underwear.”
Heinz later explained to The Advocate that the man in the video is a “travel companion” and denied any relationship with him. He compared the moment to other viral moments in which Zoom calls have been interrupted by children and pets, and said he was “baffled” by how much attention the video broadcast has received.
Heinz explained he traveled with his friend to Panama as part of a 10-day Ritz Carlton cruise, but denied any relationship with the man. The cruise was slated to end this past Saturday in Panama City, after which Heinz and his friend were scheduled to fly back to the United States via Florida.
Heinz also pushed back against assertions that his companion is a sex worker, saying his friend had been out on the balcony of their room and came back in to change his shirt when he was caught on video.
“He’s 24. He’s clearly an adult, and we’re good friends who travel well together,” Heinz said. “We are not dating. We are not boyfriends. We’re not engaged. We’re not married.”
Addressing the right-wing rumors being spread online, Heinz characterized the fascination with the unexpected Zoom guest in the speedo as “strange” and “perplexing.”
“As a public official, I’m pretty used to getting…targeted and having all sorts of often incorrect stuff said about me — fine,” he said. “But leave my friend alone. He was in a swimsuit. He accidentally walked into the frame for like not even three seconds, was not naked, is clearly an adult, and is not a sex worker — not that there’s anything wrong with that — but it’s just been a really strange reaction.”
Heinz previously served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2009 to 2013, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress three separate times. Between 2013 and 2015, he worked in the Obama administration as the Director of Provider Outreach in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs.
Explaining why he called into the board of supervisors meeting rather than attending in person, Heinz told The Advocate that because he is a single man, he often works a lot around the holidays in order to allow his colleagues who have families to spend time at home. He currently has three jobs, working as an attending physician at the Tucson Medical Center, as a county supervisor, and as the owner of a small scribe business.
Heinz added that he had hoped that attending a meeting remotely while on vacation would show his dedication to his position, only to be disparaged by some online users over his traveling companion’s choice of attire.
“I have three full-time jobs,” he said. “I figured that at least I [would] get a little credit for participating remotely in this board meeting because of my commitment to my constituents and public service.”
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