A local Democratic leader in Massachusetts came under heavy criticism for deeply offensive remarks he made during a public meeting in February about the burdensome costs to the community of special needs children who aren’t aborted.
The sustained criticism, including from many of his fellow Democrats, finally prompted Michael Hugo to resign his position as chairman of the Framingham Democratic Committee on Thursday, Fox News reported.
Along with his resignation came yet another public apology from Hugo for what he had said, but that is unlikely to assuage the anger and disappointment of his critics.
Resignation following controversial statement
According to the MetroWest Daily News, the controversial remarks from Hugo came during a Feb. 7 City Council meeting during a discussion about a proposed proclamation against pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in the city, which Hugo and other Democrats allege hire unqualified employees who give expectant mothers inaccurate information to dissuade them from obtaining an abortion.
Claiming to speak on behalf of the FDC that he chaired, Hugo said, “Our fear is that if an unqualified sonographer misdiagnoses a heart defect, an organ defect, spina bifida, or encephalopathic defect, that becomes a very local issue because our school budget would have to absorb the cost of the child in our special education budget.”
There was immediate pushback to that statement and the backlash only grew over the interceding weeks as he issued multiple apologies amid mounting calls for his resignation, which apparently have finally achieved the desired outcome in his stepping down as chair — though he insisted that he will continue to serve as a member of the Democratic committee.
In a prepared statement released Thursday, Hugo said, “Recognizing my unfortunate misstatement at a recent City Council meeting, and upon discussing the issue with my wife, family, Senate President Karen Spilka, and various members of the Framingham Democratic Committee, I have decided that my resignation is necessary to eliminate any distraction from the important work of the local Democratic Committee, as well as the State Party.”
Comments were “egregious and totally unacceptable”
It was likely Hugo’s referenced discussion with Democratic Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka that finally convinced him to resign his local committee chair, as she had just released a blistering statement of condemnation against him, according to the Framingham Source.
“As the sister and long-time legal guardian of a sister with Down Syndrome, I have dedicated my career to advocating for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, and my life to raising awareness of the challenges they face and the opportunities they deserve,” Spilka said in a statement.
“Michael Hugo’s comments were egregious and totally unacceptable, and not reflective of our values. It is in the best interest of the community that he steps aside,” she added.
Numerous other Democratic state representatives and party officials similarly condemned Hugo’s remarks, including his own committee, which called them “harmful, misleading, and wrong,” as well as the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Gus Bickford, who said the comments were “personally appalling.”
Local community advocates outraged
Prior to the announced resignation, Fox News had reported separately on the growing backlash against Hugo from members of the Framingham community and others, including disability advocate Laura Green, who said Hugo’s apologies were “generic and lackluster. I feel like after a statement like that is made, you can’t just pretend that it didn’t happen or take it back because it’s damaging to a community of people.”
Sheryl Goldstein, chair of the Framingham Disabilities Commission, said she viewed Hugo’s remarks as “a personal attack against my own children,” and added, “That my children who had special needs were not worth the expense in the school system.”
Also weighing in was Jon Fetherston, a Republican advocate for special needs children, who said, “As a parent of an autistic child, I read those comments and go ‘what?’ A peer of mine thinks that I should’ve aborted my child because he was going to be a burden to a school budget?”