McKenna staffer resigns over tasteless tweets

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by ROBERT MAK / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 18 at 8:05 PM

An employee of Rob McKenna's campaign for governor, slammed this week for offensive comments on her Twitter account, resigned Wednesday.

Kathlyn Ehl resigned following a meeting with the Asian American Coalition and Seattle Steering Committee leaders, according to a release from the McKenna campaign.

"It became clear after talking with some of our grassroots leaders and arranging for Kathlyn to explain herself, and get their feedback, that it just wouldn't be effective for her to continue serving on Rob's campaign," said McKenna campaign spokesman Craig McCray.

The resignation was announced just as a group of some Asian and Pacific Islanders gathered outside the campaign's headquarters to demand Ehl's firing.

Ehl, 22, tweeted in January, “shut up and speak english #asians.”

Another tweet she posted in November reads, "If it takes you an entire green light to walk in front of my car, GET A WHEELCHAIR."

Both tweets were sent out before Ehl was employed as a policy assistant by the McKenna campaign. She began as a volunteer in April and was hired after graduating from the University of Washington in June.

McKenna has worked hard to build support among Asian Americans, headquartering his campaign in Seattle's International District.

The campaign said it held a conference call Wednesday morning with community leaders, which led to the campaign's decision to accept Ehl's resignation.

"My reaction was, why did it take so long?  That it took a group conference in order for them to admit that what she said was racially charged," said Frank Irigon, an activist in the Asia and Pacific Islander community.

The McKenna campaign's manager told KING 5 News on Tueday that the campaign was trying to take into account that young people can say inappropriate things. And another group that employed Ehl earlier this year told KING 5 that she was a stand-out worker.

Still, Ehl's experience demonstrates that anything a person says on social media is always there.

"What we tell students all the time is any single thing that you put online anywhere, can come back to haunt you," said University of Washington communications professor David Domke.

And it's a lesson to campaigns to pay closer attention to who they hire, which can be a difficult task.

"How do you vet that?  How do you vet every single thing that anybody's ever uttered publicy?  You need a full-time research shop to do that, and no candidate short of a Presidential candidate has got the money for that," Domke said.

Ehl was suspended without pay when The Stranger broke the story on Monday.

Ehl has since deleted her Twitter account, @kathlynehl.

Lindsay Chamberlain contributed to this report.

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