Days after Strasburg Town Council member John Massoud posted and removed a crude meme referring to Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris, town residents and fellow council members expressed their frustrations with him publicly Monday evening.
All of Strasburg’s Town Council work sessions begin with a citizen comment period where residents are allowed to speak about anything not appearing on the meeting’s agenda. On Monday, several residents — most of them women — vented their frustration with Massoud’s conduct and his reasons for removing the controversial meme from his Facebook page.
“There is no excuse for this behavior from any rational human being,” said Barbara Plitt, a former council member. “The worst part of this is you act like it isn’t a big deal and that’s really sad.”
In a newsletter to Republicans, Massoud explained that he took down the meme because he was “catching flak” for posting it but contended that “facts are facts” and that the reason he was being attacked was that Harris is a weak candidate.
Massoud, a prominent Republican and chairman of the 6th Congressional District GOP, is an outspoken critic of Harris and other Democratic politicians and policies. Last week, Massoud posted at least two stories on Facebook from his official account as chairman that drew links between Harris and Willie Brown, a former California politician.
Citizens did not express their frustration at Massoud sharing his political beliefs or news stories casting doubt on Harris but instead on his “extremely poor judgment” as one council member said, in using derogatory language referring to Harris’ possible sexual relationship with Brown.
“The most offensive thing about this post to me is that it implies a woman can only advance if she has a sexual relationship with a man in power,” town resident Mary Redmon said. “All the women in this room need to be offended by this if they have achieved any success in their life.”
Mayor Brandy Boies expressed her own frustration with aspersions against women in leadership positions and the constant attacks on their personal lives they endure in a more pronounced way than their male counterparts.
“This is not new to women in leadership,” Boies said. “The moment that I announced I was running for mayor there were immediate negative comments because I’m a woman.
“I have three girls and I want them to never have to worry about ‘should I put on lipstick? Or will it look like I’m trying to flirt?’” she continued. “That’s what has to go through women’s heads every day in a leadership position. Those are the things that are thought about us and said about us. And men just don’t have to deal with that, thank goodness. It’s just something extra. We can handle it, we can. It doesn’t mean we are going to keep our mouth shut about it, though.”
Massoud, who did not respond to requests for comment from the Northern Virginia Daily or the Washington Post, did speak on Monday night, saying he was grateful for community members around him who have made him a better person and saying this was a “teachable moment.”
“I can honestly say,” Massoud said in prepared remarks, “that I am a better human being for having met each and every one of you, regardless of our political opinions, differences, where you live or whatever. For this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
“I need to be more careful about things said,” he continued. “There are other things that I do want to say but I think it’s prudent I leave it at that.”
Massoud did not apologize for posting the meme but said that he felt that, at times such as this one, he is working at cross purposes serving as a nonpartisan member of the Town Council and as the chairman of the 6th Congressional District GOP.
Massoud said he has no intention of resigning his post on the Town Council or as chairman of the 6th Congressional District GOP.