AUGUSTA, Maine — A Maine legislator is under fire for a controversial email he sent to an Asian American woman—one Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau is calling 'racist.'
Krista Gerrity of Windham said she emailed dozens of state lawmakers last week over concerns about Republican-led efforts to urge the Maine Dept. of Education and CDC to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and fully reopen schools.
Republican Representative Michael Lemelin, who represents District 88 including Chelsea, Jefferson, Nobleboro, and Whitefield, later replied to the email dramatically downplaying the effects of the coronavirus.
In the message shared with NEWS CENTER Maine, Lemelin shared his desire to get kids back to school 'without masks' and referred to COVID-19 as the 'China virus.'
"When people start using verbiage like this is only propagating more hatred, more fear, more xenophobia," Gerrity said.
The mother of two said she and her children are among the many Asian Americans experiencing increased discrimination in recent months.
NEWS CENTER Maine reached out to Rep. Lemelin for comment explaining Gerrity's concerns. He replied from his official legislature account saying, "Please read John 18:23. If you still do not understand, I will explain more clearly."
"It is a wise man who rules Covid, and a fool who is ruled by Covid," Lemelin wrote in part. "We are being ruled by Covid."
John 18:23 in The Bible reads: “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
Democratic Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau denounced Lemelin's claims and called his message to Gerrity 'racist.'
"Especially in the light of the violence that's been committed against Asian Americans in recent weeks, his reliance on a racist tropes is incredibly discouraging and most importantly totally beneath the office which he holds," Fecteau said.
Fecteau would not say whether or not he had the authority to take any formal action. Instead, he said it is up to Lemelin's constituents to hold him accountable.
A spokesperson for the House Republicans did not return NEWS CENTER Maine's request for comment.