On social media, NC candidate smirks over Trump's COVID test
Posted October 2, 2020 4:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 2, 2020 4:38 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — In the wee hours of Friday morning, as news spread that President Donald Trump tested positive for coronavirus, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner in North Carolina took to social media with a smile.
"On a scale of one to 10, is this your favorite or most favorite October surprise in the history of electoral politics?" Jenna Wadsworth asked her social media followers, in a video made with online app TikTok. "For me personally, I think it ranks pretty high up there."
When she shared the video on Twitter, Wadsworth added "Got that big OCTOBER SURPRISE energy up in here tonight" and adorned the post with hashtags likely to pull in more eyeballs: #TrumpHasCovid #TrumpCovid #TrumpHasCorona #DonaldTrump #COVID19 #VOTE #VoteHimOut #Election2020.
The 3 a.m. video was deleted around 11:30 a.m., after catching the attention of North Carolina politicos. Republicans, though, had already archived it.
"This is beyond disgusting and deserves universal condemnation," Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis said on his own Twitter account.
Wadsworth said her words were misconstrued. She focused, in a campaign statement, on the definition of "October surprise," something she laid out in the 55 seconds worth of video as well. October surprises are late-breaking potential game-changers in politics – damaging revelations that often harm a campaign.
"The purpose of the video was not to celebrate the President testing positive; it was a reaction to such a game-changing event occurring a month before the election," Wadsworth said in her statement.
"I would never wish harm on anyone with this illness," she said. "My commentary was on the irony of the President contracting the virus after not taking it seriously enough."
The explanation was not well received. Raleigh's own Clay Aiken, who starred on the 2003 season of "American Idol" and ran as a Democrat for Congress here in 2014, weighed in.
"@jennawadsworth should do more than accuse the 'other side' of twisting her words," Aiken wrote. "Own up to a lapse in judgement and promise to do better."
The state Democratic Party said the video was "not appropriate."
"We join Vice President Biden in sending our best wishes to the Trump family for a quick recovery," a party spokesman said via email.
Wadsworth is a Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, and she's running against long-time Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, a Republican.
Troxler's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.