A state lawmaker is coming under fire for wearing a T-shirt that is being decried by the state Democratic Party as offensive to people of Asian descent.
State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, is shown in photos wearing a T-shirt with the words “Beware Wuhan Grisham. The economic virus” printed on the back of it while taking part in a July 12 demonstration in Roswell. The photos were posted July 15 on the Facebook page of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive political advocacy group.
Nibert though downplayed the controversy Monday.
“I think it’s a lot about nothing,” he said.
The protest was the first of at least two in Roswell to express opposition to a public health order prohibiting restaurants from providing dine-in services.
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Other people at the protest also held up signs that mentioned Wuhan — a city in China where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported — and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s name. Nibert and most others at the event were also not wearing masks.
Marg Elliston, chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, in a press release Friday called on Nibert to apologize to both Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, and the state’s Asian-American community.
“This sort of message is racist and inappropriate in the best of times, and is especially offensive in a time when we should be coming together to protect our communities instead of stoking racial divisions,” she said.
Nibert said someone gave him the shirt, but declined to reveal the name of that person. He added that he does not know what the term “Wuhan Grisham” is intended to mean.
“I was given that shirt to put on, I put it on. You will have to ask whoever came up with it,” he said.
Nibert added that he does not intend to apologize, saying that Lujan Grisham’s public health order unfairly singles out restaurants when no evidence exists that the virus is being transmitted at higher rates in restaurants but not at other businesses.
“It doesn’t seem like we as government are treating people equally,” he said.
Nibert has been a vocal critic of Lujan Grisham’s public health orders meant to halt the spread of COVID-19.
During the special legislative session he introduced House Bill 10, along with fellow Republicans House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, of Artesia, Rod Montoya of Farmington and Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert of Corales.
The legislation if enacted would have required any declaration of emergency or disaster — or the invocation of powers pursuant to an act in the state’s Emergency Power Code — not remain in effect for more than 30 days, unless extended by a joint resolution by both Houses of the New Mexico Legislature during a regular, special or extraordinary session, according to the draft legislation.
If the governor determined an extension of emergency powers or declaration was needed before the end of the 30-day period, the governor would submit a request to the Legislature. The legislation was not heard during the special session.
According to Daniel Marzec, a spokesperson for House Democrats, because it did not appear on the governor’s call for the special session it was not heard.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or email@example.com.