U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress, said Tuesday she was rattled after an online campaign event was disrupted by people calling her racist slurs.
Hayes, a Democrat seeking reelection to a second term representing a district in northwestern Connecticut, posted an essay that described the incident as "six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable, hate" apparently involving multiple people.
Hayes' Republican opponent, David X. Sullivan, condemned the incident.
"It is appalling that a bigoted coward would direct insults at Congresswoman Hayes, interfere and disrupt a legitimate campaign activity, and besmirch the reputation of the good people of the 5th District of Connecticut," Sullivan posted on Twitter.
Hayes said she was hosting a virtual meeting on Monday night when she was interrupted several times by people calling her slurs. On Twitter, she posted a screenshot of the racist comments posted in the Zoom session's chat.
"Many will question why I would post something so raw and offensive? It is because I realized in that moment that I am not ok. I am not ok that this happened. I am not ok, that this is not the first time this has happened in my life or that I've had to explain that this happens," Hayes wrote in the essay.
In response to Hayes' post, a representative from Zoom asked for details of the meeting and said on Twitter: "We are deeply upset to hear about this and we take the privacy of Zoom Meetings very seriously."
Hayes said in the essay the incident was being reported. The status of any investigation was unclear. Barbara Ellis, Hayes' campaign manager, said Tuesday afternoon she had not yet learned whether the people who interrupted the call have been identified.
After the disrupters were removed from the meeting, Hayes said in her essay she apologized to the remaining participants and finished talking about her legislative work and her campaign. But she acknowledged being rattled.
"Black women are expected to press on, to ignore this behavior; to not talk explicitly about it because it is uncomfortable, divisive or does not reflect the sentiments of most people," she wrote. "I have watched other women weather this storm and fend off these types of attacks and wonder if in their quiet places they have felt what I am feeling right now."