Republican lawmaker issues pathetic apology after sharing cruel Dr Rachel Levine meme

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A Republican Pennsylvania legislator issued a grovelling apology Saturday (23 January) after sharing a transphobic meme that needlessly mocked the state’s top health official, Dr Rachel Levine.

Jeffrey Pyle, a Republican veteran and decades-long member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, uploaded on his personal Facebook a meme that cruelly derided Joe Biden‘s historic pick for a top administration role.

The since-deleted post featured a photograph of Levine with the caption: “American citizens express optimism and renewed hope as Benjamin Franklin joins Joe Biden’s cabinet.”

The state’s LGBT+ Democratic caucus was quick to condemn Pyle, calling for his resignation while alarmed queer lawmakers said his potshot “perpetuates transphobia”.

Amid criticism, Pyle posted a pathetic apology on his since-deleted Facebook page, according to the Associated Press. The 60th district representative said he had “no idea” the meme would be “received as poorly as it was”.

But the “tens of thousands of heated emails assured me that it was”.

Neither addressing Levine or the trans community directly, he wrote: “I owe an apology and I offer it humbly.”

“A few days ago I copied and shared a meme,” Pyle wrote, adding that he does not plan to resign and will instead focus on a Butler Community College project and the economic revitalisation of the commonwealth.

We guess we all need a hobby.

Rachel Levine breaks barriers with top administration appointment. Republican responds with cruel meme

Levine has for three years been the secretary of health for Pennsylvania and led on the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden nominated Levine to lead the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, translating her state-level experience to overseeing the nation’s public health policy.

It was a seismic appointment, being that it placed Levine on the path to become the country’s first openly trans, Senate-confirmed federal official.

Rachel Levine

Dr Rachel Levine giving a live update on the coronavirus crisis in Pennsylvania (Facebook/Pennsylvania Department of Health)

But Pyle’s response, according to gay Pennsylvania representative Brian Sims, captured the continued barriers LGBT+ people face.

“Homophobia and transphobia have no place in the General Assembly or in our commonwealth,” he wrote on social media.

“The kind of discrimination and hatred displayed by rep Pyle are a direct violation of the public trust afforded to him as a member of the General Assembly.

“By attacking sec Levine in this way, rep Pyle has perpetuated both transphobia and discrimination against the LGBT+ communities which have among the highest rates of civil rights violations and discrimination in the nation, often with deadly consequences.”