Federal Way City Council member Erica Norton said her recent social media comments — calling Washington residents “brainwashed imbeciles” and for people to “Please keep getting the clot shots, die off, and let the rest of us move on with our lives” — were made as a result of her trauma response to online bullying.
On a Jan. 30 Facebook discussion thread related to the removal of Neil Young’s music from Spotify, Norton contributed to the conversation thread with two comments, which have since been deleted.
In her comments, Norton encouraged people to “Please go get 6 more boosters tomorrow, have a heart attack, stroke, whatever, and leave us alone.” She also wrote in part, “3 years from now all the believers will be dead or permanently disabled. Hopefully they’ll all shut the hell up and leave the rest of us alone to live our lives.”
Norton claims these comments were made in response to other people online who were threatening her.
“This was me reacting out of being threatened, it’s not the way I normally talk or act,” Norton told the Mirror during an in-person interview on Feb. 9. “When something triggers me, like my life being threatened, I get triggered and I’m working on it. It’s just part of being in recovery and having the kind of past I have.”
“Everyone I love the most in this world — which is my family and most of my friends — are vaccinated,” she said. “People were bullying and threatening unvaccinated people in a really long thread on Facebook and that response was directed at people who told me I deserved to die because I was unvaccinated.”
In the Facebook discussion, still available online as of Feb. 9, there are no comments making any threats against the councilmember or calling her out by name. Norton said this is because half of the comments, specifically the ones pertaining to her, were deleted by an unknown source.
Norton said she deleted her own social media comments because she was told to, but did not say who told her to delete them.
Her public Facebook page previously listed her job title as holding Position 2 of the Federal Way City Council. Norton removed the council affiliation on her social media page after the Mirror’s first request for comment on Jan. 31.
Norton requested an interview earlier this week with the Mirror after ignoring the newspaper’s previous requests. Norton said she is responding to the Mirror at the request of Mayor Jim Ferrell.
Norton did not answer when asked if she believes her comments were appropriate for a councilmember to make.
“Like I said before, I was reacting from a trauma-based place, so I really don’t have anything else to say other than if you’ve been through the kind of things I’ve been through, when people direct threats and aggression toward you, it triggers people to do things that are out of their character,” she said.
Norton said she experienced “severe childhood sexual and physical abuse throughout most of my childhood.” In a written statement released after the interview, Norton said: “As a survivor of childhood abuse, both physical and emotional, and as a recovering alcoholic, I was triggered by threatening posts on social media. I made an emotional response based on that threat. I understand much of the language was inappropriate for a public forum. I welcome any opportunity to speak to my constituents about both my lived experience and the perceived intent of my comments.”
Norton told the Mirror it is a religious choice for her not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Norton claims she had COVID-19 “in the beginning” of the pandemic and that her husband almost died from the virus.
“I just don’t want to get vaccinated,” she said. “I think that people who’ve had it [COVID-19] have a right to not have to do it. And I think anybody who wants to get vaccinated should get vaccinated.”
When asked who she was talking about in her Facebook comments, Norton said her comments were directed at people who were bullying unvaccinated people online, not members of the general public who are vaccinated.
“I think it’s kind of obvious,” she said.
When Norton wrote “… we need to clean up the gene pool and they’re volunteering to take themselves out,” Norton claims she was talking about “the bullies who were bullying people,” she said.
Norton did not apologize for her comments.
“I don’t have any excuses for what I did; it’s a trauma-based reaction,” she said.
When asked if she is remorseful that she made these comments, Norton said: “The thing that concerns me the most is that it might negatively affect the mayor and the city council and the people who work here and the citizens of Federal Way.”
In response to the Mirror’s Feb. 4 story about Norton’s online comments, some voters said they regret voting for her. Others wondered if a recall to remove her from city council is necessary.
“That’s up to them,” Norton said. “They can do as they want to, it’s a free country.”
When repeatedly asked if she thinks she is fit for office, Norton said: “I’m working on myself, I’m a human being.”
Pressed on if she believes she is fit to represent all of the citizens of Federal Way, Norton responded: “Yes, of course, I am.”
Asked if she has anything to say to the community members, Norton said:
“I’ll try to do my best to respond more kindly the next time someone threatens my life because of my vaccination status,” she said.
Norton said she did not respond to the Mirror’s previous requests for comment because she blocked this reporter’s email address for “aggressive” and “threatening” messages. Norton said “because when people threaten me and are aggressive toward me, it’s best for me to not interact with them.”
According to the city, Federal Way City Council members do not have the ability to block email addresses on their official email accounts.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, support is available 24/7 by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (800-656-4673). Survivors in King County can also contact the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center Resource Line at 888-99-VOICE or visit www.kcsarc.org/gethelp.
For the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN): www.rainn.org
For substance abuse and mental health: www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline
For Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org