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Sisolak blasts Nye official’s ‘vile,’ ‘blatantly racist’ comments about first lady

Gov. Steve Sisolak in a statement Monday blasted a Nye County commissioner’s comments made last week against Nevada first lady Kathy Sisolak, calling them “vile” and “blatantly racist.”

Commissioner Donna Cox opened up her comments in last Tuesday’s meeting by acknowledging that the governor often watches the Nye County meetings. She went on to call COVID-19 a “political virus” and falsely accuse the first lady of profiting off of the recent mask mandate, as first reported by The Nevada Independent.

The latest mandate required everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear masks in public indoor spaces effective July 30 in counties with high rates of COVID-19 transmission, including Clark and Nye counties. It aligned with an updated recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I’m going to tell you all something about the governor,” Cox said, according to the recorded meeting. “… Well, a few months after he won he married his wife. Now how long he’d known her I have no idea, but she is Chinese. And you put two and two together, they actually said that her family in China own a company that’s making a lot of money off of this issue. That she’s here in the United States promoting and selling all these masks and emergency equipment and everything, and they’re all being shipped over from China.”

“Is there any better reason in the world to want to do a mask mandate?” Cox later continued.

A native of Ely, Kathy Sisolak is the youngest of four children. She worked as a financial consultant when she met Steve Sisolak at their gym, five years before the former chairman of the Clark County Commission proposed in 2018 as Nevada’s governor-elect, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported.

In his statement Monday, the governor said he was furious after hearing the “vile, blatantly racist comments made against my wife – a Nevadan who has dedicated her life to making our state a better place.”

“There is no room for this type of hateful speech from anyone, especially not from an elected official,” the statement continued. “Kathy and I, along with so many others, have worked hard to fight back against the anti-Asian racism brought on by misinformation regarding COVID-19, but comments like these only take us backward. They hurt our community, our state, and the ones we love.”

“Now is a time we should be coming together to get us through what has been one of the hardest times for our state, not attacking one another,” the statement continued. “I urge every Nevada Republican elected official and candidate to join me in calling out this bigotry.”

Cox, a Republican elected to her third term in 2020, did not immediately respond to a Review-Journal request for comment late Monday.

Nevada Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen quoted the governor’s statement on Twitter, saying “Enough is enough.”

“Home means Nevada to one of the largest AAPI populations in the country and we are lucky to have First Lady Kathy Sisolak as a leader in our community and our state,” Nguyen said. “Hate has no place here.”

Nguyen was the first Asian Pacific Islander American Democrat to join the state Legislature when she was appointed in 2018, according to One APIA Nevada, which advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander representation in elected offices. She retained her seat in last year’s election.

One APIA Nevada in a statement condemned “the vile racist attack from Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox.”

Nye County Republican Central Committee Chair Bill Carns simultaneously defended Cox and criticized Sisolak in response to a Review-Journal inquiry on Tuesday.

“As Nevada’s first lady is of Chinese decent, any method Commissioner Cox used to discuss her beliefs on the matter could be turned into a case of ‘racism’ by the governor, as that’s the last resort to deflect and turn the topic,” Carns said. “He has a built-in fallback to cry ‘racism’ rather than address the concerns Commissioner Cox introduced.”

“It’s the weakling’s go-to move of the Left when they need to deflect,” he added.

The Nevada Senate Republican Caucus and the Nevada Assembly Republican Caucus also condemned the comments in separate statements.

The state Senate Republican Caucus called the comments hurtful and misleading. “Nevadans expect our public officials to conduct themselves at a higher standard. The county commissioner who made the bigoted and disrespectful comments should apologize immediately.”

The state Assembly Republican Caucus shared a statement “in support of our native Nevadan First Lady Kathy Sisolak.”

“Hate has no home in Nevada,” the statement continued. “Assembly Republicans denounce in the strongest sense of the term, any prejudice against our Asian American community. They are our friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.

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