Wife of Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor Is Target of Racial Slur

October 12, 2020 

Gisele Barreto Fetterman, the wife of Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, went to the grocery store on Sunday to pick up some golden kiwis.

It was a last-minute dash, so she headed to a local Aldi store without the state troopers who usually protect her. Three boxes of kiwis in hand, Ms. Fetterman was standing in line to pay when a woman stopped and stared at her.

"'Oh, there is that N-word that Fetterman married,'" Ms. Fetterman recalled the woman saying to her, emphasizing in a phone interview that the woman used the racial slur without abbreviating it. Ms. Fetterman is the wife of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat.

Ms. Fetterman, who shared an account of the encounter on Twitter on Sunday night, said she froze. The woman kept repeating, "You don't belong here" before walking away, she said.

Shaken, Ms. Fetterman paid for her produce and headed to her car. The woman reappeared, pulling down her purple mask and repeating the racial slur to Ms. Fetterman, who recorded the encounter and shared it with her followers on social media.

"I love love love this country but we are so deeply divided," Ms. Fetterman wrote.

"This behavior and this hatred is taught," she added. "If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead."

Word of the encounter spread just three weeks before a presidential election in which Pennsylvania is set to reprise its role as an important battleground state. President Trump is trailing his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in nearly every poll, but Republicans have narrowed the Democratic voter-registration advantage by nearly 200,000 in a state Mr. Trump won in 2016 by fewer than 45,000 votes.

Ms. Fetterman said in an interview that the Pennsylvania State Police had identified the woman in the video and were investigating.

A native of Brazil, Ms. Fetterman, 38, is a former undocumented immigrant who came with her mother and brother to New York City before she turned 8. She said she received her green card in 2004 and became a citizen in 2009.

She and Mr. Fetterman married in 2008 and have three children. They live in Braddock, Pa., a borough east of Pittsburgh where Mr. Fetterman was formerly the mayor. She said the grocery store is about a two-minute drive from her home.

She said that she had been the target of hateful comments online and in emails, but that Sunday's encounter was the first time she had been attacked to her face.

"I have had a good amount of hate toward me," she said. "I have learned to get used to them and the right thing to say. It's become normal for me. It's never been to my face in public. No one is immune to that."

Her tweet, which has been viewed more than 300,000 times as of Monday afternoon, drew reactions on social media from lawmakers.

"It's on us to teach our children kindness, acceptance and inclusion, and condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it," Senator Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, wrote on Twitter. Another Pennsylvania Democrat, Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, said on Twitter that "hate has no place here."

Ms. Fetterman said she hoped that people treat the woman who accosted her at the grocery store "with compassion and teach her different."

"I know I wasn't the first one on the receiving end of this," she said, "but I hope to be the last one with her personally."

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