Republican Mayor Erin Stewart’s meeting with fellow Republican, President Donald Trump, has drawn the ire among New Britain residents and questions about her sincerity in distancing herself from the widely reviled Republican President.
Stewart visited Trump on February 14, 2018, CTMirror reported, “to publicize tax incentives available to investors in struggling communities designated as Opportunity Zones.”
Trump’s statements, policies and actions are widely opposed as bigoted against women, African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, the LGBTQ community and more. But the Republican Mayor Tweeted that, “When the White House calls….you go.”
However boycotting meeting with Trump has become a common message of opposition to him. Many people have refused to meet with Trump in protest, such as members of the Superbowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles and members of last year’s Superbowl Champions, the New England Patriots, while many popular entertainers passed on performing at his inauguration.
Locally, Stewart’s visit with Trump drew critical comments online.
“I’m so disappointed right now !!!!!” said one resident, in reaction to Stewart meeting with Trump.
“Birds of a feather?” asked another resident.
Another person said, “Disgrace,” also saying, “Never vote for someone who is already looking to align with Trump…”
WTNH quoted Stewart defending her decision to meet with Trump. “I was certainly the only person sitting around that table that represented a community like the city of New Britain,” said Stewart. “And the only person sitting around that table that was bringing a perspective of a very low income community and someone that is on the ground and living in it. So I took it as my opportunity to certainly try to affect policy decisions.” Stewart’s salary as Mayor is $87,634, an amount that is more than twice the 2016 New Britain median household income of $41,844.
Stewart also told WTNH that she has been critical of Trump, saying, “There are some things I agree with, there are some things I don’t. I don’t agree with the way he conducts himself on social media. I don’t think it’s very presidential and that’s something I would say to him.”
But, Trump, himself, had supportive things to say about Stewart at their meeting. When Trump complimented Stewart, saying, “You’ve done a great job,” Stewart welcomed the comment, saying, “Thank you.”
Locally, online, Stewart responded to the criticism by saying, “I just want you know that I do not support Trump. Just wanted to let you know so you don’t confuse how I feel with the fbook comments I’ve seen.”
“She says, ‘I don’t support Trump’,” said a resident online, “but acts like him and has a sticker of Trump,” while another resident posted a meme, saying, “She has disease. It’s called Lie-abetes.”
The State Democratic Party had even more blunt criticism. “Erin Stewart has failed again to make it clear where she stands on Trump,” said Connecticut Democratic Party Communications Director Christina Polizzi.
The state Democrats said that, “President Trump’s administration has recently covered up a scandal involving multiple staffers accused of domestic abuse, continues to enable a negligent Congress to stay silent on gun safety legislation, and has skirted the responsibility of protecting thousands of DACA recipients across the country.”
“She claims she doesn’t support him,” added Polizzi, “but jumps at the chance to engage him directly at the White House … Erin Stewart cannot continue to have it both ways. Connecticut voters need to know if she will be a rubber stamp for President Trump’s agenda or if she will stand up to him. It’s clear that not only will Erin Stewart stay silent on the scandals of this administration and allow them to continue to roll back progress for middle class families, she will actively call Trump for help.”
It is not the first time Stewart has faced criticism for her actions appearing to run counter to her statements that she opposes Trump.
When New Britain political leaders opposed President Donald Trump’s support for white supremacists after the August 12, 2017 right wing march in Charlottesville, Virginia, Stewart did not join them in direct criticism of Trump. The KKK, Nazis, alt-right and right wing militias had held a show of force in Charlottesville to oppose that city’s efforts to remove a confederate Civil War monument. The gathering attracted many people who openly chanted and spoke racist, anti-semitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in a violent day with three deaths and many injuries. Trump defended the hate groups and sought to spread blame for the violence to both the right wing groups and counterprotesters.
New Britain Democrats did not share Stewart’s reticence to criticize Trump. “In his campaign, President Trump appealed to that racism and empowered white supremacists,” they said. “What happened in Charlottesville, VA was the predictable result of that encouragement from the top of the Republican party.”
Commenting on Stewart’s departure for her recent meeting with Trump, a resident said, online, that, “She has yet to denounce any of his actions publicly.”
Reporting by Antonio C. Lavoy, Sr. contributed to this article.