On Friday, The Oregonian reported that a longtime staffer to Betsy Johnson, the conservative former Democratic state legislator who is now running for governor of Oregon as an independent, employed a staffer who has a long history of hate speech toward Black, Muslim, and LGBTQ people online.
“At the same time Pamela Fitzsimmons was a long-tenured staffer to Johnson, she maintained a Twitter account and a blog, Held to Answer, where she repeatedly referred to Black people as criminals, railed against the Black Lives Matter movement, said Black civil rights organizations needed segregation and hate crimes for their survival, questioned whether a Black man wanted to be shot by police for publicity, called LGBTQ rights activists ‘bullies,’ said transgender individuals who share their stories were attention-seeking and wrote that the U.S. Constitution ‘might be a lot worse’ if Muslims had participated in its writing,” reported Jamie Goldberg and Hillary Borrud. “She wrote her name at the end of each blog post.”
“Fitzsimmons worked as a part-time legislative aide to then-Democratic state Sen. Betsy Johnson from October 2011 to May 2012 and again from January 2014 until shortly after Johnson resigned to run for governor last December, according to Jessica Knieling, manager of employee services for the Legislature,” said the report. “Fitzsimmons was paid $80,000 from October 2011 through October 2018, according to pay records obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive for that specific period. Knieling wasn’t able Friday to provide the newspaper with Fitzsimmons’ pay for the rest of the time she was employed as a legislative staffer.”
According to the report, Johnson also reportedly paid Fitzsimmons another $76,000 out of campaign funds.
Johnson did not clarify whether she knew about Fitzsimmons’ views when she employed her, but told The Oregonian, “Trying to attack me using someone else’s views or actions is gutter-dwelling politics. As I have stated previously, I am absolutely against all forms of bigotry and intolerance, and that includes the Confederate flag on T-shirts and people’s personal blog posts. This campaign should be about moving the state forward past politics of hate and division, not indulging in it.”
Johnson herself has previously stated she agrees with Republicans trying to pass laws barring transgender athletes from playing on teams with their identified gender.
The Oregon gubernatorial election pits Johnson against Democrat Tina Kotek, the former Speaker of the Oregon House, and Republican Christine Drazan, the former Oregon House Minority Leader. Recent polls have suggested a close race between all three.