Nenshi calls out racist social media commenters in Calgary campaign
Calgary’s incumbent mayor Naheed Nenshi says he's the target of fake social media accounts created to smear his campaign and spread hateful messages.
In an online video posted on Friday, he began by appealing to the city’s Pakistani community for votes but then suggested that some of his opponents’ supporters may be driven by racist ideology.
“We know they are using a lot of technology to get people who don’t believe in diversity, who get people who might be racists or haters out to vote. So we have to make sure we get out and vote in even greater numbers,” he said in the video.
The message has since been removed, but not after it garnered opinions from many people on social media both in support of and against the mayor.
Nenshi’s campaign office released a number of the hateful comments and messages aimed at the incumbent to CTV, with many attacking the mayor’s Muslim faith.
In a statement, officials said:
“Throughout this campaign, there has been a remarkable rise in racist and hateful comments on social media, which Mayor Nenshi has spoken out against for months. The comments from a small minority have been magnified by automated bots and anonymous accounts online.”
His campaign manager also said that other candidates are unified in condemning these activities.
Bill Smith, through a spokesperson, said race has no place in a civic election no matter what happens on social media.
"We acknowledge that there have been a lot of attacks directed towards Mr. Nenshi of an unacceptable manner. We know that all mayoral candidates have been subject to similar attacks. Bill hopes that Mr. Nenshi will consider an apology for his comments."
The mayors will be meeting again on Tuesday night at a forum in northeast Calgary but experts say it's doubtful that the controversies will change the minds of decided voters. If anything, it will emphasize their feelings for voting for diversity among Nenshi supporters and Smith supporters wil see the unsolicited emails as a forgivable mistake.
"Because I think it's an equal battle, it's not going to just go sway anything." said MRU political scientist Duane Bratt. "There may be individuals who are swayed by one story over another but I'm not sure there is so much against one candidate and not on the other that it will turn the election."
The mayors' forum is at 7:00 p.m. at the Crossroads Community Centre.