Trenton councilmember faces backlash for homophobic comments toward out mayor

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Trenton Councilmember Robin Vaughn faced a censure vote on Tuesday following her homophobic comments toward Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora in the city’s coronavirus briefing on May 2. Gusciora is openly gay. In a 5 to 2 vote, Vaughn did not face punitive action; Legislators Jerell Blakeley and Joe Harrison were the only ones to have voted in favor of Vaughn’s censure, according to the Trentonian. 

According to published audio of what devolved into heated arguments and name-calling on Trenton’s coronavirus briefing phone call last weekend, Vaughn called Gusciora a “drug addict pedophile,” and accused him of running “young boys” through City Hall. Gusciora called Vaughn “radioactive,” “an idiot” and “a child.”    

Gusciora told PGN that the aggressive interactions between himself and Vaughn began when he reacted to Vaughn’s Tweet commenting on the allocation of funds that the city of Trenton received from the U.S. HUD. Her tweet read in part: “Trentonians, let’s focus on Mayor

@gusciora fueling of the grant monies to those ‘do nothing nonprofit organizations’ run by his friends.”

“Robyn said that they were going to do-nothing nonprofits, so I guess I did start the fight,” Gusciora said. “Her and another councilperson started in about whether the money was being appropriately spent. I cut them off and I said, ‘Robyn, I first need to know –– what are these do-nothing nonprofits, can you name one?’ And she couldn’t name one. As soon as she was challenged, that’s when she started in on her rant that I was a ‘pedophile’ and ‘a drug addict.’ One of the other councilmen came to my defense. She started in on him, [saying] that his mother was a whore, that he didn’t know who his father was and that he sucked my d–k.”

Gusciora also told PGN that Vaughn has a history of arguing with other council members and disturbing City Council meetings. “None of her colleagues have ever come publicly to her defense, and she seems to be the most unproductive councilperson on the council,” he added. 

Vaughn could be reached for comment. 

Many individuals and organizations have called for Vaughn’s resignation, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey LGBTQ organization Garden State Equality. 

“Councilwoman Vaughn is unfit to serve the people of Trenton,” Christian Fuscarino, Garden State Equality’s executive director, said in a written statement. “There’s no need to parse words here: for her hateful anti-LGBTQ language and defending the anti-Semitic slurs of others, she must resign. Her words are an attack on the diversity of Trenton’s community, the city’s elected leadership, and our state as a whole. Any decent-minded New Jerseyan who believes in the success and future of our state’s capital should denounce this hateful rhetoric and call for her to step down immediately.”

This is not the first time that a Trenton City Councilmember has uttered a bigoted remark; Last year Trenton City Council President Kathy McBride made an anti-semitic comment about a Jewish city attorney at a closed-door City Council meeting. Vaughn apparently defended McBride’s remarks, Gusciora said. 

Kamau Kujichagulia, publisher of Trenton’s African American newspaper the Nubian News, planned to have a rally on Thursday for people to show their support of Vaughn. He told the Trentonian that he thought Gusciora’s remarks toward Vaughn were inherently racist. On May 5, the Nubian News published a YouTube interview with Trenton residents Daryl Brooks and Paul Bethea, asking them for their response to the “explosive” conversation between Gusciora and Vaughn. 

“I was so disappointed in the mayor Reed Gusciora and Harrison the Councilman,” Brooks said in the video interview. “They initiated everything, they started it and they totally disrespected Vaughn. Not once, but twice, three, four times –– kept disrespecting her. As a Black woman, as a woman, she feels that she’s disrespected. She’s a highly educated woman, she is the West Ward Councilman to do a job and she asked serious questions about nonprofits. The problem was, Reed did not want to answer so he totally disrespected her.” Brooks added that “[Vaughn] had a reason to go off… This is the mayor of a great city, and he was totally disrespectful. He should be ashamed of himself.”