Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Wagner's Political Consultant Texts Offensive Meme Mocking Caitlyn Jenner to Journalist - NBC 10 Philadelphia
Decision 2018

Decision 2018

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Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Scott Wagner's Political Consultant Texts Offensive Meme Mocking Caitlyn Jenner to Journalist

The meme was texted to the three most-senior campaign staffers for Wagner, who is challenging Tom Wolf — and Billy Penn political reporter Max Marin. The campaign's manager called it "ludicrous" to conflate the meme with Wagner's stance on LGBT issues.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Text Message Trouble for Republican Candidate

    A text message sent by a political consultant for Republican Pennsylvania Gubernational Candidate Scott Wagner is causing trouble. Ray Zaborney allegedly texted an offensive meme mocking Caitlyn Jenner, and now the Democratic party is calling on Wagner to immediately fire Zaborney.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 7, 2018)

    What to Know

    • Zaborney's consulting firms have been paid more than $43,000, according to the most recent campaign financing report filed June 30

    • The crude meme is the latest in a series of missteps associated with Wagner and his campaign that has stunted chances to cut Wolf's lead.

    • A spokesman for the Wagner campaign did not immediately return a message left seeking comment. Neither did Ray Zaborney.

    A Pennsylvania political consultant working for Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner reportedly texted an offensive meme mocking Caitlyn Jenner to a reporter, apparently mistakenly, according to the news site Billy Penn.

    Ray Zaborney, whose Harrisburg political consulting businesses Maverick Finance and Red Maverick Media have received more than $40,000 from Scott Wagner's campaign, texted Billy Penn political reporter Max Marin inadvertently in a group with three other people, Billy Penn reported Friday.

    The three others are all senior staffers for Wagner, including campaign manager Jason High, finance director Jenise Harris and policy director Shauna Boscaccy, Billy Penn reported.

    Wagner, a former state senator and businessman from York, is challenging Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf in the Nov. 13 general election. Wolf is seeking a second term. An NBC News/Marist poll released last month found that Wagner trails Wolf by 14 points, 54-40, among registered voters.

    The meme is a black-and-white image of Jenner's face with the the words: "Believe in something. Even if it means cutting your d--- off."

    There is also a Nike Swoosh and the Nike slogan: "Just Do It." in the bottom right corner of the meme, in an apparent mockery of the new Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign.

    Jason High, Wagner's campaign manager, said in a statement that "one text by a consultant who poorly judged the line between humor and sensitivity" should not take away from the candidate's advocacy for the LGBT community.

    "Scott has been a strong advocate for the LBTQ community as both a business owner and lawmaker. He was vilified throughout the Republican primary for shepherding an anti-discrimination bill through the Senate," High said. "And even after millions in negative advertising was spent against him on the issue, he refused to back down one inch from demanding equal rights for LGBTQ individuals."

    A Wagner spokesman said Zaborney would continue to consult for the campaign.

    The Pennsylvania Democratic Party on Friday afternoon called for Wagner's campaign to "immediately fire" Zaborney and High.

    "Scott Wagner must immediately fire campaign consultant Ray Zaborney for his despicable, transphobic actions and campaign manager Jason High for failing to denounce Zaborney,” the state Democratic organization's spokesman, Mike Mikus, said in a release.

    Wagner's campaign has paid Zaborney's political consulting firms $43,653.70, according to the most recent campaign financing report filed by the Wagner campaign June 30.

    The next filing deadline is Sept. 30.

    Red Maverick Media's slogan is "Winning. Differently." A message left Friday at the firm seeking comment from Zaborney was not immediately returned.

    Zaborney sent the meme in a text about 9 a.m. Thursday morning, Billy Penn reported. A short time later, the consultant texted Marin again to apologize for sending the initial text.

    He then texted, in an ongoing exchange with Marin about a request the reporter asked of the Wagner campaign, that he'd like it if Marin "just forget I sent that meme." He ended the message with a smiley face, Billy Penn reported.

    Marin initially texted Zaborney that the meme would be forgotten, according to screengrabs Billy Penn posted, but the reporter told NBC10 that the meme became newsworthy when he realized who the others were in the text group.

    "I was pursuing other information at the time, and once I discovered who the other recipients were on the text, the story changed," Marin told NBC10 Friday afternoon.

    He said he never considered the mistakenly sent text off the record.

    "If a flack texts a reporter something, it's on the record," Marin said, using journalism vernacular for a spokesperson or communications officer.

    Wagner has struggled to gain momentum in the race, with missteps from the stump — like recent comments that he didn't want his employees knowing how much he makes. He is running on a message of bringing change to state politics.