ALLEGHENY CO., Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Second Lady, Gisele Fetterman, says she was harassed and called a racial slur during a trip to a local grocery store on Sunday.
Fetterman, whose husband -- John Fetterman -- is Pa.'s lieutenant governor, told Channel 11 she went to Aldi on Lincoln Highway (Route 30) in Forest Hills to pick up a few things without her usual security. She said the store was only three minutes away, so she did not notify the state trooper assigned as her security.
While in the store, Fetterman said a woman approached her and started calling her different names, including the N-word. Other customers heard what was going on and asked Fetterman if she was OK, and she felt safe enough to leave.
However, Fetterman told Channel 11 that woman then followed her to her car and again called her names. At that point, Fetterman recorded a short video of the woman using the N-word toward her.
“I started to cry and I was shaking,” she said. “For someone to yell at you that you don’t belong or you’re this ... in public is so bold. I was immediately like an 8-year-old girl, just terrified.”
She posted her experience on Twitter later on, saying she was able to “finally capture (the incident) after the crying winded down.”
The video contains a racial slur, so we are not showing it in this article. You can read her full tweet here.
Fetterman said she wasn’t physically harmed, just emotionally. As a native of Brazil, she told Channel 11 she is not stranger to racism, unfortunately.
“Growing up as a young immigrant in this country, I was undocumented and we really had this journey where I felt I didn’t belong for a long time,” she said.
She told Channel 11 on Monday that she hopes by exposing her latest experience, it will teach others to be more accepting and kind.
“There is a lot of work to do. It makes me want to work that much harder for my community and state. It’s also really sad,” Fetterman said.
Monday morning, Gov. Tom Wolf condemned the unidentified woman’s comments, calling them “shameful and unacceptable.”
You can read the governor’s full statement below:
"The ethnic intimidation and racist speech spewed at the Second Lady of Pennsylvania is shameful and unacceptable. Racism and hate speech are always unacceptable, and unworthy of Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should ever be made to feel unwelcome in our commonwealth because of their race or ethnicity. Gisele Fetterman spends much of her time devoted to making our state and world a better place and she -- and every Pennsylvanian -- deserves our respect, not the hatred too often displayed by people who seek only to further divide this country at a time when unity is so desperately needed. The Second Lady has my and Frances’s full support and gratitude for her tireless work to make Pennsylvania the diverse, inclusive place it is today, even in the face of such ignorance and adversity.”
The Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Pittsburgh), a chapter of the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also issued a statement condemning the verbal attack:
“This disturbing incident demonstrates un-American behavior and is totally unacceptable in an inclusive society. The level of division and hatred spreading across this nation like wildfire is fueled by the hate rhetoric and policies of those at the highest level of our society. No one should have to endure such hatred and intimidation. It is more important than ever to stand up to bigotry whenever and wherever we see it.”
On Wednesday, state police told Channel 11 no charges have been filed at this time, but they’ve identified the woman in the video. Here is their full statement:
“The Pennsylvania State Police is investigating the incident involving Second Lady Gisele Fetterman on Sunday night.”
“No charges have been filed at this time, however investigators have identified the woman depicted in the video shared by Ms. Fetterman. The findings of the investigation will be forwarded to the Allegheny County District Attorney for review.”
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