A Republican state senator has apologized after he was caught wearing a face mask that appeared to be made from a Confederate flag.
Michigan Sen. Dale Zorn wore the covering on the state Senate floor on Friday, according to CNN.
When a local journalist asked Zorn about the mask, he claimed his wife made it and the print was not a Confederate flag. However, he insisted Confederate history should be taught in schools.
“I told my wife it probably will raise some eyebrows, but it was not a Confederate flag. Even if it was a Confederate flag, you know, we should be talking about teaching our national history in schools and that’s part of our national history and it’s something we can’t just throw away because it is part of our history,” he told WLNS on Friday. “And if we want to make sure that the atrocities that happened during that time doesn’t happen again, we should be teaching it. Our kids should know what that flag stands for,” Zorn concluded.
A picture of Zorn wearing the mask circulated on social media and caused an uproar.
“Get the hell out of my state with that bulls–t. Shame on you, sir. SHAME. Michigan was never a Confederate state and if you think you can represent us with that racist garbage you have another think coming. GET OUT,” wrote one angry tweeter.
“So Dale Zorn of Michigan senate is an out-of-the closet racist now. Vote him out, shame him,” tweeted another critic.
Zorn later apologized for the mask on Saturday morning.
“I’m sorry for my choice of pattern on the face mask I wore yesterday on the Senate floor. I did not intend to offend anyone; however, I realize that I did, and for that I am sorry. Those who know me best know that I do not support the things this pattern represents,” Zorn tweeted.
“My actions were an error in judgment for which there are no excuses and I will learn from this episode.”
On Saturday evening, the senator was criticized by Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, a Black man who runs a panel dedicated to eliminating racial health disparities caused by COVID-19. He called Zorn’s appearance “appalling and disgusting” during an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton.
“I mean, Rev. Sharpton, as someone who has fought for civil rights for his entire life, I know you certainly get sick of this every time you see it,” he said on Saturday evening. “And as a Black man — as the first Black lieutenant governor in the history of the state of Michigan, as the first Black person to preside over the Michigan Senate — it was appalling and disgusting to see a Confederate flag chosen as the face mask of a sitting state senator.”
When Sharpton asked if Zorn should be scolded by his political party, Gilchrist didn’t mince words.
“I’m disappointed that the Senate Republican leadership has not done that yet,” Gilchrist said. “And I hope that they step up and do the right thing, because to to openly choose to wear a symbol of bigotry, hatred, oppression, racism in this moment when people need to come together in the state of Michigan and across the country is reprehensible and unacceptable. This is the time for unity. It is everybody versus COVID-19; we need all hands on deck. And to choose to do something like that sends the absolute wrong message.”