First posted at 12:35 p.m. and moved up with a statement from McKenna saying his aide's tweets were "offensive and inappropriate."
Kathlyn Ehl is a policy staffer for the Rob McKenna for Governor campaign, according to the campaign's Twitter staff list. Her own Twitter bio, which includes a regular patter of campaign updates, describes her as a "recent @uw grad and policy assistant for @robmckenna on the @mckennacampaign for #wagov."
So we know Ms. Ehl supports McKenna's Republican-Party-line positions on health care and gays. But does McKenna share her positions on Asians and the elderly? Let's look at some of her past tweets:
Ehl has not replied to an attempt to reach her. And McKenna's entire campaign staff is in a meeting—literally every single one of them, the receptionist insists—so we left a message but they haven't responded.
But hey, Kathlyn! #classy.
UPDATE: Since posting this, Ehl has deleted dozens of tweets, including the two I posted as screen grabs. She had 213 tweets earlier today; that number is down to 176 tweets. So I suppose that means Ehl had 37 postings too unsavory for the campaign? While we haven't heard back from her, she's probably seen this post, given that one of her priorities at the campaign is "monitoring the media," according to her LinkedIn profile.
Meanwhile, it turns out McKenna's campaign actually told folks to follow Ehl on Twitter last Friday. But the McKenna campaign may soon delete that tweet, given that they have completely scrubbed Twitter of its staff list that I linked to earlier. So I've gone ahead and posted a screen grab of that tweet and the former web page—including Ehl's listing—after the jump. The McKenna campaign still has not commented.
UPDATE 3: Rob McKenna has issued a statement saying, “The tweets sent by a member of my campaign staff, Kathlyn Ehl, which were reported today were offensive and inappropriate. I am glad to see that she has apologized for her actions."
Oddly, even though McKenna's comments respond directly to a story we broke, his campaign did not send the statement to The Stranger. Instead, we obtained them from another source.
McKenna's statement continued, "The fact that she made the comments before joining my campaign does not make them any less hurtful to Asian Americans and the elderly. They were insensitive and wrong regardless of their context. She has done the right thing by apologizing. I am hopeful that she has learned a humbling lesson that will give her greater perspective about having charity in her heart when considering the challenges faced by others.”
It's unclear where, exactly, Ehl apologized.
UPDATE 4: Earlier today, I'd asked Asian Counseling and Referral Service for their take on the matter. Here's the polite—but scathing—statement from spokesman Owen Lei:
We understand people sometimes make mistakes or tell inappropriate jokes. But as an organization that works regularly with marginalized people, many of whom rely on our programs precisely because they face language barriers most of us couldn't imagine, we can't help but be discouraged by comments like this.
Honestly, if it were that easy to "shut up and speak English," we wouldn't be helping tens of thousands of people a year with multilingual counseling services, ESL job training and legal translation to guide them through various roadblocks. If it were that easy to "get a wheelchair" we wouldn't be training hundreds of healthcare aides to care for homebound elderly.
That said, it appears the staffer in this incident was venting personal opinions and has since apologized for her actions. We will respect her apology, as long as it's based not in shame over potentially making her boss look bad, but rather in a genuine desire to understand the challenges of the groups she targeted and in her own clarity of how hurtful those comments can be.
UPDATE 5: Ehl sent her apology to the Seattle Times, which is backing McKenna's run for governor. “My actions were not just unfortunate, they were offensive,” she told the paper. “It is a lesson to others that social media comments made in frustration not only can hurt others, but they exist long after the moment has passed.” She'll reportedly keep her job.