LOCAL

Lt. Gov. Robinson responds after viral video of confrontation with Sen. Mayfield

Sarah Honosky Joel Burgess
Asheville Citizen Times
State Sen. Julie Mayfield said Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson should absolutely "not be discriminating and saying hateful things about a segment of this constituency."

After a viral video of a confrontation in which Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson is seen chastising state Sen. Julie Mayfield for remarks she made during a speech, Mayfield  said Robinson accused her of equating lynching with his anti-LGBTQ comments.

The video shows Robinson gesturing emphatically in front of Mayfield, saying, "next time before you're getting ready to say something on that floor, come see me." He then turns and walks off.

The kerfuffle followed a speech from Mayfield on the state senate floor Nov. 29 that addressed the recent unveiling of historical markers in Asheville that recognize three Black men who were lynched in Asheville in the late 1800s. 

Mayfield then used time to share her thoughts that "as elected leaders, we have the responsibility to serve all of our constituents." She went on to say she stands in solidarity with all LGBTQ North Carolinians and that "silence is complicity."

A Dec. 2 statement from Robinson's office confirms Mayfield's account of the confrontation. It said Mayfield's speech was "equating the lynching of African-Americans, to the hardships of the LGBTQ+ community."

"The Senator equating one of the darkest points in American history to any issue; is an attempt to score political points for the upcoming midterms," the statement said. "These comments, while not naming the Lt. Governor directly, were her way of personally attacking him. The Lt. Governor is not a politician, if he feels there is a difference of opinion, he will not cower behind social media to address it; he will go directly to the source."

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson gives a press conference following his comments calling LGBTQ+ education "filth," earlier this year. He chastised state Sen. Julie Mayfield for criticizing his comments.

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While Mayfield said both Black people and LGBTQ people have faced historic discrimination, she said she was not trying to compare lynching to other forms of oppression.

Instead, Mayfield said she was reminded at the ceremony of the role elected officials played in lynchings and said it made her think about how those officials’ statements can cause harm. If Robinson continues to make similar comments about LGBTQ people, Mayfield said members of his party should push back.

“I certainly wish his Republican colleagues would object to his statements. But that is for them to decide. I don’t think it speaks very well of the party that they are not being critical.”

The statement from Robinson's office said he has "not hidden from his Conservative Christian beliefs and will not waver from them," but that everyone has the right to express themselves however they want, including the LGBTQ+ community. 

Related: Historical markers recognize three Asheville lynchings

Mayfield said she made the speech because she believed Robinson should understand the power of his voice as an elected official, no matter where he is speaking.

“He does not get to claim he is speaking with one voice at one forum and another voice at another forum,” she said.

Robinson, a Republican and highest-ranking Black elected official in the state, was recently at the center of national debate after calling teaching about homosexuality and transgenderism "filth." 

Related: NC Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who made LGBTQ 'filth' comments, coming to Asheville

“In my view, as an elected official, he should absolutely not be discriminating and saying hateful things about a segment of this constituency," Mayfield said. 

"If he had said those things about Black people or women or Latinos or children or older adults, if he had said those things about any of those many constituencies, I think there would have been an immediate reaction.”

Sarah Honosky is the city government reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. News Tips? Email shonosky@citizentimes.com or message on Twitter at @slhonosky.