‘This isn’t about race;’ Rep. Trevor Lee responds to backlash over liked Twitter comments

Jul 20, 2023, 3:33 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2023, 12:49 pm

Rep. Trevor Lee, R-Layton, poses for photos at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 9, 202...

Rep. Trevor Lee, R-Layton, poses for photos at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Republican lawmaker has received backlash for “liking” tweets that suggested some Black women do not work for their positions.

On Monday, political correspondent for the Salt Lake Tribune, Bryan Schott, posted screenshots of Rep. Trevor Lee’s Twitter like history on social media.

In the tweet, Schott claimed that Lee was liking comments of a post where Turning Point USA’s President, Charlie Kirk, was criticizing U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee D-Texas, for her stance on affirmative action.

“Charlie Kirk says some prominent black women are low IQ, got where they are due to affirmative action, and at the expense of smarter whites,” the tweet stated.

The two comments that Schott posted of Lee liking responded, “If you’ve worked with black women, you’ll know this to be true,” and “They work?”

Schott’s tweet was reposted by Utah Democratic Party and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, who criticized Lee’s likes.

Lee responded, “One of the greatest things about @elonmusk taking over Twitter is now the ability to get free speech uncensored from the right. In fact there’s so much balance, left wing activist @SchottHappens has had to block those that call out his bs and turned off all his comments.”

Soon after that tweet, KSL TV confirmed that Lee “unliked” the comments.

Lee's Likes history showing he liked comments. (Michael Houck/KSL TV) Lee's Likes history after unliking the comments. (Michael Houck/KSL TV)

‘This isn’t about race at all’

On Wednesday, KSL TV talked to Lee about the tweets. He said the likes were based on Kirk’s comments of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who he thinks is a diversity hire and not qualified to be on the bench.

“Do you think Justice Brown is a smart lady?” Lee asked in the phone interview. “The problem is we don’t know. And the reason why I liked Charlie Kirk’s comments on it, and I think he hit it really well, and that’s where I liked the tweet, is that she is a diversity hire.”

Before she was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jackson was a U.S. District Court Judge and issued over 500 opinions. She was a federal public defender, a lawyer in private practice and was a law clerk at all three levels of the federal judiciary, according to Senate.gov.

The American Bar Association rated her unanimously as “well qualified” and she had letters of support from 23 attorneys general. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, as highlighted by the NAACP. She clerked for three federal judges and worked at four law firms in Boston and Washington DC.

Lee said people should be hired based on their “merit and skills” and that skin color should not play a role.

“I think this isn’t about race at all. I am judging people based on the content of their character and what they do, and that is what I was commenting on … I just think she is a horrible a Supreme Court justice, and I think it’s very evident based on her rulings,” he said.

Lee said he removed the likes because he didn’t want his constituents to focus on them instead of what is happening in the Utah Legislature.

“I am not trying to bring attention to myself, and if something is going to do it on that end, then I don’t want it to be something that’s the focus,” he said. “So just get rid of it.”

‘We just want everyone to be civil’

On Tuesday, the House and Senate minority leaders released a statement calling for elected officials to “engage thoughtfully and constructively online.”

“We are deeply troubled by repeated racially-charged actions by elected officials on social media platforms, and we will not be silent while communities of color endure attacks online by our colleagues,” continued the statement.

The minority leadership spokespeople said this is a “general statement” and didn’t cite an example.

“They feel like they are obligated to make a statement, and I think that’s really sad,” Lee said about the statement.

Lee said he has talked to House Democrats and believes they understand “where he is coming from.” He also said both parties have people who “say and do stuff that we don’t agree with.”

“But we just want everyone to be civil,” Lee continued. “I don’t think I have been uncivil about anything. I have my beliefs, and I want everyone to be kind about how they respond.”

He expressed that both parties are civil when they are in the Capitol and during debates on the House floor.

“And I will tell you this, I appreciate the Democrat’s statement, and I think it’s a good statement. And I agree with it. I really do.” Lee said.

He said he will more thoughtful about his words and choices before posting online.

“If something might be inflammatory or might be considered bad, then you know, then I probably shouldn’t be trying to drum up that kind of issues,” Lee expressed.

Past social media controversies

This isn’t the first time Lee has been spotlighted with his social media activity.

On May 2022, KSL NewsRadio reported that Lee used a slur against transgender people while on The Modern Conservative Podcast with Jon Harvey.

During the podcast, Harvey was disparaging Gov. Spencer Cox over transgender issues, adding that Cox had been named as one of the nation’s top governors.

Lee said in the podcast, “Was that before or after he vetoed a bill for tr—-y’s.”

Lee spoke to KSL NewsRadio, admitting to using the word, claiming he didn’t know it was a slur, and apologized for its use.

In September, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Lee had a private Twitter account that “elevated conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, attacked women and members of the LGBTQ community, made false statements about the coronavirus pandemic, and frequently used the #DezNat hashtag in support of the conservative religious philosophy.”

Lee admitted to owning the account and told the Tribune that “the world we live in now. I can say something that I may not think is controversial, but the world is changing to a point where it thinks it is.”

At that time, GOP House leaders told the Tribune that the hidden account was disrespectful.

In October of that year, KSL NewsRadio reported about a woman’s fence that was vandalized with a sign that had a swastika, the N-word, KKK, and the words “Vote Trevor Lee.”

Lee denounced the sign and claimed he had nothing to do with it.

“I one-hundred percent disavow everything that was written on that sign, except the ‘Vote Trevor Lee,’ he said to KSL. “And I disavow any type of [vandalism], any form of it, including the use of the vulgar words that are on that sign.”

House Majority Leadership and Utah Republican Party has not returned requests for comment.

This story previously contained Lee’s comments about a journalist that have since been removed.

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‘This isn’t about race;’ Rep. Trevor Lee responds to backlash over liked Twitter comments