On May 14th, the state’s Republican leadership met via phone with Governor Evers to discuss future steps for the state’s reopening plan.
But, unbeknownst to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who were on the call, the discussion was recorded by Governor Evers’ staff.
Evers has since stated that he was unaware the call was being recorded.
The discussion came just a day after the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the statewide Safer at Home order. The decision plunged the state into chaos, forcing all of Wisconsin’s counties to develop their own safer at home plans.
States have different laws for when a call can be recorded. In Wisconsin, it’s legal to record a call if at least one party knows and approves of the call being recorded.
State Republicans lambasted the governor and his staff for the recording. In a statement issued yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald characterized the recordings as “Nixonesque.”
Speaking this morning on Milwaukee radio 620 WTMJ, Vos called the governor “disgusting” and expressed his doubts that the governor was unaware of the recording.
“We have tried our very best. I didn’t vote for the Governor Evers, but he’s still the governor,” Vos said in the interview. “So we have tried and if you listen to the recording you will hear us trying to raise legitimate concerns. And the very concept that you are going to record that conversation and use it for some sort of political reason afterward is just disgusting.”
But, Evers isn’t the only one facing backlash. In the call, Vos attributed Racine County’s recent hotspot of coronavirus cases to Latinos.
“The reason [for the high case rate] in my region is because of a large immigrant population, Difference in culture of people living much closer and working closer together,” Vos said.
Racine County has some of the highest rates of positive coronavirus cases in the state, with 634 confirmed and 131 probable cases as of yesterday. Latinos make up 23% of those cases, according to the Racine county’s health department.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz is the Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera, a group that advocates for Wisconsin’s latino community. She says Vos’ statements are racist and an oversimplification of the issues facing the Latinx Community.
She says it also illustrates his failures in not providing adequate protections for the Latinx community. Now, Ortiz and Voces de la Frontera are calling for Vos’ resignation.
“Voces de la Frontera is calling for Assembly Speaker Vos to resign his leadership position. This statement is completely racist,” she said. “We know that latinos are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because they’re often working in essential jobs…This disregard for human life and this cynical use of prejudice to try to not take responsibility is not acceptable, because lives hang in the balance.”
Now, politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for the dismissal of the staffer who recorded the call. In a tweet that has since been deleted, Democratic Representative Jonathan Brostoff called for the immediate termination of the staffer.
In a press briefing earlier today, Evers declined repeated questions about the tape.
“I did not know about it. A staffer wanted help in taking notes, and that’s why that staffer did that. I will not discuss personnel issues in public, but needless to say the practice has ended with this one time,” he said.