Over the weekend a Board of Estimate and Taxation member’s Facebook post was widely circulated.
The post was a meme of a Chinese restaurant sign about a missing cat that circulated on the internet more than a decade ago, but Harry Fisher re-posted it last week saying, “Not P.C. but funny.”
Starting Saturday, GFP readers sent emails saying they were surprised and offended by the post.
Greg Piccininno wrote, “At first I thought this was an actual photo taken by Mr Fisher but with a quick google search learned it’s from an ad for things like shot glasses etc….He must have come across it on the internet and thought it was funny and sent it round. I question his genuine sensitivity to represent all residents of our town. I am astonished an elected member would be so callous and hence I am forwarding it to you.”
“While the cat meat trade exists in some Asian countries, we know it is prohibited in the USA and the meme is a classic racist trope,” Piccininno added.
Mr. Fisher was emailed for comment with cc’s to BET chair Dan Ozizmir, BET member Nisha Arora, and First Selectman Fred Camillo.
Only Mr. Fisher responded. Fisher, a Republican who served on the BET from 1992 to 1998, was once the vice chair and a member of the Budget Committee.
Today he is again a BET member. He is chair of the Audit committee and a member of the town’s Energy Advisory Committee. In that capacity, last summer many will remember he drafted an alternate to the GHS students’ proposed “Climate Emergency Resolution.” Ultimately the resolution was renamed, “Sustainability and Resiliency Plan.”
On Sunday, Fisher acknowledged that indeed he posted the meme, and described it as “a mistake,” and that he had since deleted it.
We also emailed Republican State Senator Ryan Fazio and RTC chair Beth MacGillivray for comment. Neither replied.
Joe Angland, DTC chair emailed GFP to say, “One wonders what the mistake was. Did he not realize that the post was racist? Or did he not realize that others would not just laugh off his racist post? Either way, he is unfit to serve.”
State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150) said the timing of Mr. Fisher’s post was troubling, given just a few weeks earlier, the RTC took to Twitter to urge parents to opt their children out of Names Day, which is held at the Greenwich High School in collaboration with the Anti Defamation League. It was also right around the time that the town settled a lawsuit with the family of Bart Palosz for $5 million. Bart took his life on the first day at GHS back in 2013 after years of being bullied.
State Rep Meskers commented, “This post is just wrong at so many levels. Coming off the Names Day controversy in town I am very disappointed. I would hope we are beyond this type of derisive and divisive post. In light of the uptick in hate crimes, this is very disturbing and reflects poorly on our community.”
State Rep Hector Arzeno agreed.
“Besides not being funny, the meme is unacceptable, especially considering Mr. Fisher is an elected public servant,” Arzeno said. “The position comes with responsibilities towards our town and constituents. It does not portray our community as the welcoming and diverse community that we are.”
At the March 16 BOE meeting, updates from the leaders of GHS student government were prescient.
Isabella Gega, GHS student body president, reported on Names Day.
“Our school partnered with the ADL to facilitate Names Day for our freshman class. They engaged in insightful presentations, participated in meaningful conversations and re-evaluated our efforts to be an ally,” she said. “We, as a school are doing our best to combat bullying and discrimination, but we can always do better.”
Mitch Goldstein, president of the class of 2023, said that at GHS, the annual Diversity Awareness Week during Black History Month was typically an “energetic” week of programming celebrating diversity in the community.
But this year, he said, not so much.
“Due to staffing challenges this year, only a handful of events occurred, and announcements were rarely made,” Mitch said. “Speaking of staffing challenges, it’s interesting to think that the district has not considered hiring a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer to handle matters like these.”
But back to Mr. Fisher’s unfortunate “mistake.” State Rep Rachel Khanna shared a comment.
“As an elected official, I take very seriously my role as a model for how people should behave toward one another. It is our obligation as public servants to treat all our fellow citizens with civility and respect. There is no room for an elected official to repost racist media. Such actions cannot be excused as a mistake. The community deserves an explanation and an apology.”
Dan Quigley, former RTC Chair, emailed to say, “Elected officials need to be held accountable for what they say. This includes what they post on social media.”
On Tuesday current RTC chair, RTC chair Beth MacGillivray submitted a comment saying: “Racism of any kind is unacceptable. Greenwich Republicans embrace Frederick Douglass Republicans’ principles that all people are created equal and deserve respect for all regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs.”