Teqen Zéa-Aida thought Council Member Lisa Goodman was hinting he had bad breath when she said, “Would you take my gum, please?” just before the start of a forum for City Council candidates in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Then she handed him the chewed gum from her mouth.
“When she reached inside of her mouth and pulled out gum and put it in my hand, I just looked at her and said, ‘What do you want me to do with that?’ ” Zéa-Aida said.
The bizarre episode exploded on social media Tuesday thanks to photos dug up by the Twitter account WedgeLive, run by John Edwards.
Zéa-Aida said he put the gum out of his mind and forgot about it until after the forum, when he was approached by Edwards. He said he interpreted it as an attempt to disorient him that was “totally unsettling.”
Goodman said she also was nervous before the forum and her asking Zéa-Aida to take her gum was a lighthearted comment followed by a series of misunderstandings. She couldn’t find any paper to get rid of the gum in her mouth. Zéa-Aida, who reached out his hand for the gum, said he thought she was offering him gum.
“He misunderstood what I said, I misunderstood him putting his hand out, I put the gum in his hand and then he looked at me like I was crazy and I took it back out of his hand,” Goodman said. “It was a simple attempt at humor that I am profoundly sorry for.”
Goodman is an experienced public figure, however, Zéa-Aida said, and he doesn’t believe the gum handoff was unintentional.
“If you look at the video or the pictures up close, her face is very determined,” he said.
Goodman said Thursday she’d called and texted Zéa-Aida to apologize and he hadn’t responded. He said Thursday he didn’t want to discuss it with her, but later said he would accept her apology.
“We all make mistakes and we are all under pressure,” he said. “I don’t get her actions but I must have forgiveness.”
Goodman, a 20-year incumbent, has three challengers in the run for the Seventh Ward council seat: Zéa-Aida, Janne Flisrand and Joe Kovacs.