Instagram Super Bowl halftime post to Schenectady mayor’s account draws criticism

The header to Mayor Gary McCarthy's Instagram account Monday, left. File, right - McCarthy in January 2020

The header to Mayor Gary McCarthy's Instagram account Monday, left. File, right - McCarthy in January 2020

SCHENECTADY — A social media post regarding the Super Bowl halftime show shared to an Instagram account belonging to Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy drew criticism Monday, with some accusing the mayor of racism.

The performance Sunday featured a number of Black hip-hop and rap artists who reached the height of their popularity between the 1990s and early-2000s, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent. Eminem, a white rapper who achieved fame around the same time, also performed. They were joined by Kendrick Lamar, who was catapulted to stardom in the late 2010s.

In the lead up to the show, many on social media joked about how seeing the artists perform conjured up good memories but made them feel old, since the performers were popular when they were growing up.

But a since-deleted post shared to the mayor’s Instagram page in the lead up to the performance missed the mark, according to some social media users.

“Today during the Super Bowl halftime show, your children will learn about your ratchet past,” read the post, which was followed by four emojis. The post was screen captured and shared by Two Buttons Deep, an online news site with a comedic spin.

The screen captured image elicited a number of responses from social media users, including several who took issue with the use of the word “ratchet,” a slang term that, in some circles, carries a similar meaning to “ghetto,” which is widely viewed as a racist reference.

“Really inappropriate, (read: racist) use of ‘ratchet,'” wrote one person. 

“This ain’t funny at all,” wrote another. 

McCarthy, in an interview Monday, said he had nothing to do with the post — which he said was up for around 15 minutes before being deleted — and blamed the posting on a mix up by a staff member who has access to his various social media accounts. He said disciplinary actions will be taken, though he declined to discuss any specifics.

The Instagram account isn’t the most active: The last visible post dates back to June of last year, and McCarthy said all postings must first receive his approval.

McCarthy said he didn’t believe the post was “malicious” but said on Monday he was attending an event hosted by the New York Conference of Mayors in Colonie and he planned to further review the incident when he returned to the office on Tuesday.

“It was meant to be posted on a private account and ended up on my account,” he said. “I don’t condone any connotations that might be interpreted as racist though I’m not 100% sure of the full underlying intent. I don’t believe it was malicious.”

Still, he noted that he has concerns about staff members posting things on social media that can be perceived as racist and plans to address the issue after further review.

The incident had some on social media calling for swift action.

In a social media post of her own, Thearse McCalmon, who nearly secured the Democratic ballot line against McCarthy in the mayoral primary back in 2019, also criticized the Instagram post.

“This is how you view the people of your city? This is why we need a change in leadership and a reason I ran against him in 2019!,” she wrote in a tweet. “There has to be serious consequences for these severely racist comments…more than an apology.”

McCarthy declined to say how exactly the staffer would be disciplined.

“We will appropriately deal with the situation,” he said.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

Categories: News, Schenectady, Schenectady County

Patrick Burns February 15, 2022
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I have know the mayor for many years. That kind of comment is not in his DNA. I never heard of the term “ratchet”, and am willing to bet he never did either. Much ado about nothing. And you wonder why people don’t enter politics!

MICHAEL KUBAN February 15, 2022
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The only ratchet I know about is the wrench in my tool box. Im pretty sure the mayor has a similar understanding. I think the person who wrote the post needs to issue an apology. Probably right before they resign.

FJCJR February 15, 2022
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I find it very hard to believe the Mayor understands the pejorative use of the word “ratchet”. I don’t, and I’m sure many people don’t. I don’t believe for a minute that he wrote that post.