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Gov. Hobbs' press secretary resigns over social media post suggesting violence

Hobbs: 'The post is not reflective of the values of the administration.' But did governor's office follow state's social media policy?

PHOENIX — Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs' press secretary resigned Wednesday after she posted an image of a woman brandishing guns in a Twitter exchange over transgender rights.

"The governor does not condone violence in any form," Hobbs said in a statement Wednesday.

"This administration holds mutual respect at the forefront of how we engage with one another. The post by the press secretary is not reflective of the values of the administration."

Hobbs' communications director Murphy Hebert told 12News that the governor asked press secretary Josselyn Berry to resign and Berry did.

Berry's tweet, posted hours after the Nashville school shootings Monday, ignited a firestorm of criticism on right-wing social media. Several Arizona Republican lawmakers and a former governor's press secretary joined in. Many demanded that Hobbs fire Berry.

Berry posted a short video clip from the 1980 movie "Gloria." The clip showed actress Gena Rowlands with a gun in each hand. The tweet said: “Us when we see transphobes."

Credit: @joss_berry
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs faces calls to fire press secretary Josselyn Berry after a Berry tweeted a GIF suggesting violence toward another person.

Berry was replying to another tweet that read, “Not sure these transphobic-from-the-left posers know who they’re messing with.” That tweet was in response to another Berry tweet calling progressives who are transphobic, not really progressive.

It's not clear whether the exchange was related to the Nashville shootings. The city's police chief indicated the assailant was a transgender person.

Twitter takes down post

Twitter has since taken down the post on Berry's account for violating the site's rules. 

Hobbs declined to answer reporters' questions about the tweet after an event Wednesday at Arizona State University's West campus in Glendale.

Berry is a former spokeswoman for the Arizona Democratic Party and the State Senate's Democratic caucus. She joined Hobbs' administration after the November election.

Policy on social media use

12News requested and received from Hobbs' office a copy of the state policy on social media use. 

The five-page policy appears to refer specifically to the use of social media accounts attached to a state government office or agency.

The policy says:

"Inappropriate postings that include discriminatory remarks, harassment, threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct ... will not be tolerated."

The police does touch on "personal use of social media outside of work": "Nothing in this policy prohibits the personal use of social media outside of work; however, such personal use shall be done in such a manner that it is not construed to be an official act of the State or the (budget unit)." 

The governor's office would be considered a budget unit.

Berry identified herself on her Twitter account as the governor's press secretary.

Hebert, Hobbs' communications director, said she had no conversations with Berry about the social media policy, but the policy would have been part of Berry's "onboarding process" as a staffer.

The governor's office has planned to develop training on the policy, Hebert added.

Ducey spokesman: An 'outrage'

Former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s press secretary and chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, was among those who called out the Tweet:

"JUST IMAGINE if this was the spokesperson for a Republican Governor."

The Arizona Freedom Caucus, largely made up of far-right members of the Legislature, tweeted its demand that Hobbs fire Berry immediately. Several other lawmakers made similar demands.

Right-wing social media influencers outside Arizona also took up the call for Berry's firing.

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