Manhattan Deputy Borough President Matthew S. Washington on May 4 used the Twitter profile on which he identifies in his official capacity to promote an infamous anti-LGBTQ and anti-women’s rights group known as Focus on the Family — and that’s only the latest example of his deep history of amplifying the messages of homophobes in the city.
Washington posted a photo from the crowd at Focus on the Family’s anti-abortion rally in Times Square and wrote, “#AliveFromNewYork Thank you @FocusFamily.” During the days leading up to the rally, Washington also retweeted the bigoted organization’s April 22 tweet previewing the event.
Focus on the Family’s website represents a mixture of homophobia, transphobia, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The site blasts bans on so-called gay conversion therapy, saying, “We also support an individual’s right to counseling for unwanted homosexuality,” and the organization also offers a guide explaining how parents should talk to their children “about homosexuality.” The site refers to transgender people in offensive ways by criticizing the “prominence of transgenderism” while telling parents, “Nobody can really change from one sex to the other.”
In a written statement, Washington did not distance himself from the organization. He only expressed regret that he had not altered his Twitter bio to include a disclaimer indicating his tweets only represent his own views. On May 6, after inquiries from Gay City News to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s office, he updated his bio to add “tweets are my own” alongside his name and job title.
“I am pro-life, and attended a pro-life rally, on my own time, on Saturday,” Washington told Gay City News. “I am sorry that my twitter feed was not labeled appropriately, and it is now.”
Brewer, who has long been a supporter of abortion rights and LGBTQ rights, defended her positions on those issues while stressing that Washington attended the rally and tweeted about it during his personal time.
“Everyone knows where I stand: access to abortion is legal and must remain so, which is what I said at Planned Parenthood’s Saturday rally; equality and empowerment for the LGBTQ community are a basic human right, which I’ve said on many other occasions; and the First Amendment allows everyone to have their own opinion,” Brewer told Gay City News. “The fact that a deputy borough president attended an anti-abortion rally on his own time — and tweeted that he did — doesn’t impact my stances. I’ve reiterated to my staff that any social media feeds must be labeled that their opinions are their own.”
Washington, until this week, was not in compliance with that edict.
In addition to serving under the borough president, Washington is also listed on the board of directors at the city’s Economic Development Corporation, where he handles capital and expense funding programs and serves as an office liaison for Manhattan economic development projects. He previously served as chair of East Harlem’s Community Board 11.
Washington’s budding career in New York City public service, however, hasn’t stopped him from spreading homophobic sermons and promoting homophobes. He frequently retweets posts by Carter Conlon, a senior pastor at Times Square Church who has said queer people must be set free “from homosexuality and other lifestyles that are a robbery of what God intended them to be,” and he routinely retweets another hate-filled homophobe — Pastor Jim Cymbala — who once said during a sermon that “men who have sex with men” are “wrongdoers” who “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
Washington appears to be a close follower of Cymbala, who serves as a pastor at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. In March of 2018, he tweeted a link to Cymbala’s book and directed followers to a link where they can purchase the book.
“God shows up in the lives of 7 people in #TheRescueBook by Pastor Jim Cymbala,” Washington tweeted.
Among the most shocking examples of Washington’s admiration for homophobes was seen in 2017 when he retweeted a sermon during which another Times Square Church pastor, Patrick Pierre, asked, “Are you having sexual encounters or performing sexual acts of any kind outside of biblically-defined marriage, which is between a husband and a wife?” Pierre then noted that “it’s alarming” how many people are “living in fornication” and ”sexual sin.”
“What’s even more alarming is when people are living in open disobedience to the word of God but refuse to turn,” Pierre added.
Washington’s tweets from the May 4 rally remain posted on his Twitter account at @MatthewStephenW.