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Local official under fire for wishing Dr. Rachel Levine ‘Happy Father’s Day’ on Facebook

A comment made on social media has a Trafford Borough council member under fire.

Councilman Zack Cole wished Pa. Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine a happy Father’s Day on Facebook Sunday, which sparked backlash. Levine is a transgender woman.

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The comment made by Cole was posted on Gov. Tom Wolf’s Facebook page. He claimed it was just a joke, but that post prompted swift and angry responses.

And now many are speaking out.

“It’s just hateful. It’s disguised as a joke, but it’s not funny,” said Cora Brna, a transgender advocate. “When you back through history and look at all these acts of violence towards any group, it all starts with words. The rhetoric that words are just words isn’t really entirely true.”

Brna said comments like those are hurtful to the trans community and beyond.

A spokesperson for the state health department issued a statement regarding the comment:

“Dr. Levine serves the governor and remains laser-focused on protecting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians as we navigate this ongoing pandemic.”

Cole told Channel 11 he didn’t want to comment, but he did post a statement on his Facebook page, saying it wasn’t an apology but that his comment was in bad taste -- especially with the position he holds.

In that post, Cole said he is angry with how Wolf and Levine have handled the COVID-19 pandemic and won’t adhere to a “politically correct” society.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh also released a statement following the comments:

“Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Dr. Rachel Levine has offered a calming presence and voice in her daily PA Department of Health briefings. It’s disappointing to hear the vitriol that continues to be directed against someone whose top concern is keeping Pennsylvanian’s safe and healthy.”