A citizen appointee of Gov. Ralph Northam who made derogatory attacks on others and anti-Catholic posts on social media resigned Wednesday following an outcry from Catholics.
Northam on Aug. 16 appointed Gail Gordon Donegan, a Democratic activist from Alexandria, to the 18-member Virginia Council on Women.
A Richmond Times-Dispatch review of her public social media history showed a history of attacks on other people as well as jokes and statements about Catholics. Both of Virginia’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday urged Catholics in the state to call the governor’s office to express concern.
Northam’s office initially defended Donegan, saying that while the governor did not condone her language, she had worked for years on women’s issues in Virginia.
Alena Yarmosky, Northam’s press secretary, confirmed Wednesday that Donegan had resigned from the council.
Donegan did not respond to an email.
Among Donegan’s public posts on Twitter:
- in 2016, she tweeted to author Cornel West and in 2017 to then Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-10th, of Northern Virginia, calling them “shithead.”
- in 2017, she tweeted to Radhika Jones, the editor in chief of Vanity Fair, and told her to “F--- off, eat shit, and crawl back to hell.”
- she made jokes about Catholic priests being pedophiles. In 2010, Donegan wrote: “Abortion is morally indefensible to Catholic priests bcuz it results in fewer children to rape.”
“Go tell a Catholic they have dirt on their forehead,” she wrote in 2011, with the hashtag #waystooffend
Donegan wrote in 2010: “Saw a bumper sticker: ‘You can’t be both Catholic & Pro-Choice.’ Add: You can be a pedophile though!”
She made a joke about Catholic priests and pedophilia as recently as last year. And her Twitter feed was peppered with often-profane attacks on others.
Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who was a reference for Donegan in her application to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for the appointment, tweeted support for her on Wednesday, as did American Atheists, an association in New Jersey.
“It is unfortunate that the Commonwealth will not benefit from the commitment and advocacy of Gail Donegan,” Saslaw said on Twitter. “Her dedication to important issues would have made a great addition to the Virginia Council on Women.”
The atheist association tweeted that Northam should “not let the scandal-rocked, morally bankrupt Catholic Church force out an atheist appointee for telling the truth.”
Virginia’s two Catholic bishops, Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, issued a statement Tuesday saying Donegan “has demonstrated a pattern of ridiculing Catholic beliefs and employing stereotypes designed to malign people of faith. Had these comments been directed toward any other group of persons, they would have disqualified her from this role.”
A statement Wednesday from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington called Donegan’s resignation “a welcome development.” Burbidge thanked Catholics who called and emailed the governor’s office.