BLOOMSBURG, Pa. (AP/KDKA) – Over the weekend, one of the state’s most popular fairs — the 165-year-old Bloomsburg Fair — found itself in hot water after posting a photo of a man in a dunk tank who had donned a blond wig, floral-print dress and glasses. The dunk tank was part of a weekend carnival held on the fairgrounds to benefit the region’s volunteer fire departments.
“Dr. Levine? Thank you you were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you,” said the Bloomsburg Fair Association’s post, which included a smiley-face emoji.
The fair deleted the post from its Facebook page, but critics slammed the dunk tank impersonation and the fair association’s comment as transphobic. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, and other politicians issued statements of condemnation. Some people said they planned to skip this year’s fair, scheduled for late September.
Hate and bigotry have no place in our society. The members of the Pennsylvania transgender community are our neighbors and friends. Treat them that way.
— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) July 21, 2020
BLOOMSBURG: As an extremely proud @BloomsburgU alum, and as someone who truly loves the Town of Bloomsburg, I can’t begin to say how disgusted I am with the transphobia that occurred at, and was subsequently promoted by, the @BloomsburgFair today.
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) July 20, 2020
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Levine said she had read about the story.
“My only reaction is that I am going to stay — no matter what happens — laser-focused on protecting the public health in Pennsylvania,” she said.
“Our vision at the Pennsylvania Department of Health is a healthy Pennsylvania for all. And I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to achieve that whether people agree with me or whether they don’t agree with me. Their health is still important to me.”
In a written statement, the fair said that Levine’s likeness was used to raise money for fire departments whose fundraising has been hampered by COVID-19, and had nothing to do with her gender identity. The statement pointed out she’s a public figure.
Fair officials subsequently held a news conference Tuesday and apologized, saying they meant no harm.
“A fellow dressed up in a dress to get people to throw balls at the dunk tank to raise money. It turned into where people thought we were offending Dr. Rachel Levine, and that was no intention at all,” said Fair President Randy Karschner.
The Press Enterprise newspaper of Bloomsburg identified the man in the dunk tank as Main Township Fire Chief David Broadt, who told the newspaper he did not set out to impersonate Levine — he said he was “going for a Marilyn Monroe look” — but decided to play along once he got into the dunk tank and people started saying he resembled Levine and shouting, “Where’s your mask?”
“It was just in fun,” Broadt said. “It wasn’t done to disrespect her.”
Levine is leading the state’s pandemic response and has been subjected to a stream of mockery and abuse.
Last month, a Scott Township commissioner resigned after saying at a public meeting over Zoom that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up like a woman.”
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