SANTA ANA, Calif. - Dissension has developed in the Orange County Board of Supervisors, with Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do blaming Supervisor Don Wagner's rhetoric for fueling threats against the county's health officer, who has required facial masks as part of the strategy to combat COVID-19.
Dozens of opponents of the face mask order railed against it, with a group later going to Dr. Nichole Quick's home to continue objecting to her order, which was issued last weekend.
Orange County sheriff's deputies have been taking steps to protect Quick following threats on social media as well.
One speaker during Tuesday's board meeting, Nicole Monteilh Brown of Costa Mesa, said, "You have seen how the people have been forced to exercise their First Amendment. Be wise and do not force the residents of this county into feeling they have no other choice but to exercise their Second Amendment."
The comment concerned county officials as the reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms was viewed as a threat.
Some protesters unfurled a banner with a picture of Quick, who is Jewish, with a Hitler mustache and a swastika on it. Brown called Gov. Gavin Newsom "Adolph Newsom" in her statement to the board.
Wagner condemned threats against Quick, but defended the right of protesters to rally outside her home. Do said that just encourages angry protesters to take things to another level.
"We can disagree with it and have a conversation about it and hopefully try to persuade our health officer to see the perspective we want her to see," Do told City News Service. "Which is fair, but to incite and invite people to harass and intimidate county employees... is irresponsible."
Do added, "There's also a question of liability. If something were to happen and you have a county supervisor basically inviting people to go to our employees' homes to harass and intimate them then where does that leave the county?"
With residents fearing an economic collapse as well as a deadly novel virus, it's not the right time to defend the constitutional rights of protesters to rally around someone's residence, Do said.
Wagner condemned the threats at Tuesday's board meeting, but Do said it did not matter.
"His facile attempt to say that threats are improper and he, in quotation marks, condemns threatening conduct, but then went on in an angry tone asserting people's constitutional rights to go there, referring specifically to the statement of a public speaker who gave out Dr. Quick's home address, the totality of the circumstance has the effect of encouraging just what we saw happen at Dr. Quick's house."
Wagner fired back that Do's "understanding of the law is challenged, his recitation of the acts is false and his comments are ignorant."
Wagner said he was "surprised" that he and Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel were the only ones to condemn the threats against Quick. At a news conference on Thursday, Steel repeated her condemnation of the threats against Quick.
Wagner opposed a suggestion to take down the Facebook Live video of Tuesday's board meeting to remove the reference to Quick's address.
The video drew about 2,000 comments and Wagner said, "We should not censor all of those people when the address was already out there... My position is you can't turning the bell. Taking it down would only disenfranchise the people or silence the people who commented and it wouldn't do any good because the information was already out there."
Wagner had no objection to censoring the comment revealing the address on the county's website.
UC Irvine associate professor of political science Sara B. Goodman said the debate over masks has become politicized, but a majority of Americans support wearing them. Democrats by a much wider margin support it than Republicans, Goodman said.