Pennsylvania State Rep. Jeff Pyle has come under fire after he shared a transphobic meme on Facebook mocking the appearance of the state’s former health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman who has been nominated to serve in the Biden administration, and then offered a general apology Saturday.
The backlash against Pyle was swift, prompting him to issue an apology on Facebook claiming that he “had no idea” the post mocking Levine “would be … received as poorly as it was”, adding that “tens of thousands of heated emails assured me it was.”
“I owe an apology and I offer it humbly,” Pyle said, not specifically apologizing to Levine or other transgender people, but later repeating an apology saying, “I’ve learned I erred and apologize to all affected. It won’t happen again.”
After deleting the initial post, Pyle reportedly deleted his entire Facebook page.
According to Philly Voice, the meme shared by Pyle included a picture of Levine with the caption, “American citizens express optimism and renewed hope as Benjamin Franklin joins Joe Biden’s cabinet.”
PA House GOP Rep Jeff Pyle posted this horrible transphobic post to his Facebook page, attacking outgoing Secretary of Health Dr Rachel Levine. This is truly disgusting behavior!Transphobia such as this should be strongly admonished by the PA GOP and Republican House Leadership pic.twitter.com/ye2dxsdDXJ
— PhillyDelegation (@PhillyHouseDs) January 21, 2021
President Joe Biden tapped Levine a day before his inauguration to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Pyle stressed that he did not come up with the meme but merely shared it, though he said he should not have done so. He later cited a conversation with the Democratic leader in the state House “who explained the error of my post.”
“From this situation I have learned to not poke fun at people different than me and to hold my tongue. Be a bigger man,” he wrote.
Pyle wrote he would leave Facebook “soon” but was not resigning and would focus on a Butler Community College project and the economic revitalization of Pennsylvania amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
An error saying “This Page is Not Available” appeared when trying to access Pyle’s professional Facebook page Saturday afternoon, reports ABC6.
Pennsylvania State Representative. Ben Sanchez (D) called for “for a reprimand of Rep. Jeff Pyle” following his attack on Dr. Rachel Levine.
“As a proud ally, I stand with my colleagues in the LGBTQ+ Equality caucus, of which I am a member, in calling for a reprimand of Rep. Jeff Pyle for his careless and toxic words regarding Dr. Rachel Levine in a recent social media post,” Rep. Sanchez tweeted. “We are no longer a society that can spew hateful rhetoric without repercussions. There is no excuse for Rep. Pyle’s transphobic remarks, and there should be no room for it in our legislature. Thank you, @RepSims, for your strong statement of condemnation.”