Florida Lawmakers Go Viral in Coronavirus Argument — with Shaq, Other Celebs Weighing In
A Florida lawmaker said he’s received some star-studded support over the weekend after a video of a Lake Worth Beach city meeting went viral because it showed him arguing over the right way through the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Lake Worth Beach City Commissioner Omari Hardy reportedly received messages from NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal and he’s thanked radio show host Charlamagne tha God and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Twitter for their support as well.
The local politician found himself in the spotlight in recent days after the viral video showing him incensed with Lake Worth Beach Mayor Pam Triolo about utility protections for their town’s citizens and other issues.
His Twitter followers leapt from 400 to around 200,000 and the video had been seen nearly five million views as of Tuesday.
Hardy, 30, and Triolo, 52, got into the heated exchange along with the city manager, Michael Bornstein, near the end of a two-hour city meeting Thursday night, according to a report on the meeting from The Palm Beach Post.
The city commissioner accused Bornstein of “turning off people’s lights during a global health pandemic,” in a now widely circulated video of the altercation, in which Triolo quickly called the meeting into recess and implied Hardy was showboating for a future campaign.
The Post reported that Bornstein said during the meeting that 50 customers had their power turned off last Tuesday, one day before the city discontinued its utility shutoffs.
Hardy also claimed Triolo essentially gave Bornstein emergency powers to run the city by making that decision.
“This is a banana republic is what you’re turning this place into with your so-called leadership,” Hardy told Triolo. “We cut people’s utilities this week and made them pay — with what could have been their last check — to turn their lights off in a global health pandemic. But you don’t care about that!”
The Post reports that Hardy and Bornstein have had an “uneasy relationship” for sometime, but tensions between them boiled over near the end of last week’s meeting.
At one point, Hardy pointed at Bornstein while talking to Triolo and said: “You call me disrespectful because I’ve interrupted people. But this gentleman has turned off people’s lights in the middle of a global health pandemic. That’s what that gentleman did. And you think I’m disrespectful.”
Hardy told the Post that public response to the video of the meeting has been “surreal,” while he tweeted that he’s been “overwhelmed and humbled” by the response.
The Post reported at the end of the weekend that neither party had apologized to each other for the now viral incident.
Neither Hardy nor Triolo immediately responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Tuesday, but they both have offered public statements since the meeting last week.
Triolo said she “took the right action” during the meeting and “I apologize for the way it had to be done.”
“He hijacked this meeting to talk about something that was not even on the budget,” she told The New York Times. “He was aggressive and completely out of order. That snippet was taken out of context. It was damaging and gave our city a black eye.”
Hardy recognized that things got “heated” but defended his decision to speak up during the meeting.
“I was heated, yes. I was loud, yes. But I was trying to get across an important point: that elected officials work for the PEOPLE,” he wrote on Facebook. “The PEOPLE put us on that dais. The PEOPLE put us in those chairs. The PEOPLE put those titles before our names. Everything we do is for the PEOPLE, and when the PEOPLE need us, it’s our job to step up for them.”
According to the Times, the customers who had their utilities turned off last week before the freeze on such actions have since had it turned back on.
In the U.S., there have been more than 49,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon while 615 people have died, according to a New York Times tracker.
Worldwide, more than 409,000 people have been infected while about 18,000 have died as of Tuesday.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.
Health officials have also urged people around the country to practice “social distancing” and avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible to slow new infections.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes ,PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.