PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee has fired one of his State House staffers following days of controversy over the ex-employee’s public statements about the Israel-Hamas war.
Miguel Sanchez, who also serves on the Providence City Council, announced on social media Monday afternoon he had lost his job as a constituent liaison in the governor’s office. McKee’s office confirmed that Sanchez worked his “last day of state service” on Friday.
Like McKee, Sanchez is a Democrat, but unlike the governor, he is a member of the party’s progressive wing. He has accused Israel of committing “genocide” against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by its military actions since Hamas terrorists massacred Israelis on Oct. 7.
“Since Oct. 7, I have used my voice as an elected official to condemn all violence against any innocent civilians,” Sanchez wrote Monday. “As Israel continues to escalate its massacre in Gaza, the need to speak out for innocent Palestinian civilians has never been more urgent — regardless of personal consequences.”
He added, “I join the 80% of Democrats who support a ceasefire and the increasing number of elected officials who are speaking out in favor of de-escalation. Gov. McKee may have taken away my job, but he won’t pressure me into silence while a genocide is occuring in front of our eyes.”
McKee had been facing questions about Sanchez in the days leading up to his firing, and his press secretary said publicly that “a member of our senior staff” had spoken with the city councilor about his statements.
“The governor strongly believes that words matter – and words can have the potential to fan the flames of hate and division,” said McKee spokesperson Olivia DaRocha.
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“The governor has unequivocally condemned the despicable acts of war and terror perpetrated by Hamas against the people of Israel,” she said. “The governor also agrees with the president that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in safety and peace.”
Sanchez was elected to the City Council last November, representing Ward 6, which includes the Mount Pleasant and Manton neighborhoods. McKee first hired Sanchez in May 2021, shortly after taking office as governor, and Sanchez had been earning $50,125 as a constituent services associate as of last week.
“I was not a spokesperson for the governor and was not involved in policy conversations,” Sanchez said in a follow-up statement, adding, “My constituents do not want me to be silent, and the governor’s office had never asked me to be either.”
Other elected progressives quickly rallied to defend Sanchez as the situation began to draw attention beyond Rhode Island.
State Sen. Sam Bell called McKee’s decision to terminate Sanchez “deeply disappointing,” and said, “Opposing the senseless slaughter is deeply personal to Jewish and Muslim communities because of our shared history. I’m appalled to think McKee might disagree.”
State Sen. Tiara Mack — who drew backlash in the days after the Hamas attack for her own pro-Palestine statements — echoed Bell. “I stand in solidarity with Councilor @MSanchezPVD for speaking out against the escalating genocide in Gaza,” she wrote. “Miguel is not alone in his support for a ceasefire in Gaza.”
Sanchez’s brother, state Rep. Enrique Sanchez, called McKee’s action “completely wrong and unjust.”
State Rep. Brian Newberry, R-North Smithfield, has been vocally critical of Rhode Island progressives over their response to the Hamas attack, and on Monday he fired back at Sanchez’s defenders. “They are all more outraged by some guy losing a low level political patronage job then they are by Hamas’ atrocities,” Newberry wrote on Twitter. “That says it all.”
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.