Social media post from Gov. Hobbs' spokesperson invoking gun violence sparks uproar

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A social media post from Gov. Katie Hobbs' spokesperson suggesting the use of violence against those who disparage transgender people has prompted a backlash and calls for the governor to take action.

Hobbs spokesperson Josselyn Berry late Monday posted an image on Twitter from the 1980 movie "Gloria," showing a woman with a handgun in each hand. "Us when we see transphobes," Berry wrote in an accompanying post that followed a prior message.

The post was made hours after a mass killing at a Nashville school where the shooter was identified by law enforcement authorities as a transgender person. The tweet was amplified Tuesday by Republican lawmakers and consultants, who panned it as tone deaf and advocating violence.

The Arizona Freedom Caucus, which includes the state Legislature's farthest-right members, called for Berry's dismissal, saying that "calling for violence like this is un-American & never acceptable."

The caucus and its leader Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, is often at odds with Hobbs and has threatened to sue her over her first executive order. That order expanded protections from discrimination to include gender and reaffirmed that in matters of state employment and contracts, sexual orientation could not be considered. Hoffman charged that Berry was "threatening to shoot people Democrats disagree with less than 12 hours after the Nashville shooting."

Berry posted earlier in the day Monday about transgender rights and progressive politics, saying if you "work in the progressive community and are transphobic, you’re not progressive." It is unclear what she was referring to.

"Not sure these transphobic-from-the-left posers know who they’re messing with," another Twitter user replied, prompting Berry's tweet referencing people who fear or discriminate against the transgender community, and adding the image of a woman with drawn guns stalking forward a few paces.

Berry did not respond to a phone call or text messages seeking comment Tuesday night. Nor did Murphy Hebert, Hobbs' director of communications. An email request to the Governor's Office did not prompt a response.

Tweet 'below the dignity of the office'

The tweet followed a day of attention on Nashville, where a 28-year-old armed with several weapons killed three 9-year-olds and three adults at a private Christian school just after noon. Police identified the shooter, who was killed, as using male pronouns but was assigned female at birth. Police have not released possible motives for the attack.

Daniel Scarpinato, a former chief of staff and spokesman for former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, called Berry's tweet offensive and tone deaf in light of the shooting several states away, but also "below the dignity of the office of the governor" given Berry's proximity to Hobbs.

"I don't think anyone, no matter your political leanings, would look at that tweet — any sane, professional person would look at that tweet and say, 'This is how I want one of the top advisers to the governor of my state to conduct themselves,'" Scarpinato said.

Nashville school shooting:Here's what Arizona's congressional delegation is saying

Hobbs, a Democrat who was narrowly elected last year, has pledged to be a governor for all Arizonans, frequently urging the Republican-majority Legislature to work with her on issues like education funding, water resources and affordability. Republican leaders for their part have said Hobbs went too far left in her first months in office, pointing to her proposal to end the state's universal private school voucher program and fund some reproductive health care programs.

The political divide between two of the state's branches of government is on repeated display at the Capitol, where tensions over policy divisions surface daily as lawmakers convene for work but Hobbs' presence — as the first Democratic governor in 14 years — buoys members of her own party and their agendas.

Republican lawmakers have backed multiple bills limiting transgender and LGBTQ rights, which Hobbs has pledged to veto.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Gov. Hobbs' spokesperson Josselyn Berry invokes gun violence in post