PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Rhode Island state lawmaker apologized Tuesday for a tweet in which he called a survivor of the deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school a “dummy.”
State Rep. Michael Chippendale, R-Foster, came under bipartisan criticism for the comment, made in response to a tweet from 19-year-old Emma Gonzalez regarding the deadly shooting at a Nashville Waffle House over the weekend.
“Yesterday it was inappropriate for me to call someone a dummy on Twitter, and I’m sorry that I did – but I will not apologize for zealously defending the 2nd Amendment,” Chippendale told Eyewitness News in a statement.
Both Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung had urged Chippendale to apologize. The four-term lawmaker is a co-chair of Fung’s campaign.
Gonzalez suggested that since a civilian was able to wrestle the gun away from the shooter, there’s no need to arm school teachers or resource officers. Chippendale replied, “But if he DID have a gun – the police still wouldn’t be searching for the gunman, and the entire region wouldn’t be on lockdown… dummy.” He later deleted the tweet.
The shooting suspect, 29-year-old Travis Reinking, was arrested several hours later.
Independent gubernatorial candidate Joe Trillo, a former Republican state representative, criticized Fung for not standing by Chippendale. He linked it to the Starbucks CEO’s apology last week, which Trillo also criticized, over an incident involving two black men arrested at one of its stores.
“I can let Governor Gina Raimondo off the hook because she plays to her progressive base, but I cannot remain silent about Allan Fung, joining her against one of his own campaign chairmen and telling him he should apologize,” Trillo said. “While I think his use of words could have perhaps been better chosen, I don’t support just stepping in line with the progressives and the politically correct mantra.”
The back-and-forth came the same week Raimondo held the first meeting of her new gun-safety task force, and ahead of a legislative hearing on a proposed ban on so-called assault weapons that is expected to draw large crowds of activists to the State House.
Shaun Towne and Kim Kalunian contributed to this report.