Cheshire Board of Education’s Chairman Tony Perugini found himself in hot water last week, over a social media post that elicited a strong response from many members of the public.
In response to the fears and anxiety over COVID-19 pandemic; Perugini reposted a quote from rock musician Ted Nugent. The quote calls for people to no longer be “afraid” of COVID-19 and to restart America’s economy immediately, despite the Centers for Disease Control’s strict social distancing protocols and procedures. Nugent also goes on to say that others “fears about the virus” should not encroach on his right to be an American.
According to Perugini, while the post was meant in jest, he realizes the current social and political climate might be a bad time for such jokes. At the end of the last Board of Education meeting on June 4, Perugini gave an emotional statement addressing the post and how he plans to move forward.
“Last week, I believe it was Wednesday or Thursday, I was debating about the COVID situation. Most of us who believe that the virus is real think that people saying that the virus isn’t real is a joke...” he began. “So to have a little fun with those who have extreme views, I took a quote from Mr. Nugent. I gotta tell you, trying to use the words Ted Nugent and Board of Ed in the same sentence, I kind of flipped my mouth a little bit…”
Perugini went on to reiterate that the post was meant to be sarcastic, and he had wanted to highlight Nugent’s commentary on fear, instead of his “extreme conservative views”.
“I feel when folks use the word fear, not so much in fear of the virus or fear of its effects or fear of going back to work, but fear that when people like myself and others talk about the situation it constantly devolves into name-calling…” he continued. “… Folks on one side or the other try to use fear in a way to make us fearful of talking about [COVID-19].”
Perugini said his initial intent was to “have fun with the naysayers”, which he ultimately agreed backfired on him. He went on to explain how his post is not a reflection of his feelings towards the Board of Education, and he disagrees with Nugents’ stance on politics and reaction to the COVID-19 threat.
“… I was really puzzled as to why a few folks thought this is how I feel about the Board of Education,” he added. “I have no intention whatsoever to put our students in harm's way. That just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
While Perugini’s apology seemed to be accepted well by the rest of the Board of Education, member Anne Harrigan expressed her desire to reevaluate the social media use policy for Town Officials after the meeting.
“I think it’s really important to take a look at the guidelines for social media use and what policies are actually in place,” she said. “There are certainly things there that I don’t know, and I think we have to have a conversation generally about how to comport ourselves on social media, especially in this time.”