Page Mayor Navajo Nation Page Mayor Levi Tappan
Photo by Bob Hembree/Lake Powell Chronicle

Page Mayor Levi Tappan is facing backlash for saying, “I wish he would battle alcoholism as hard as COVID19.”

The mayor of Page, Arizona is facing backlash for posting what many perceived as an inappropriate and stereotypical comment on Facebook about the Navajo Nation.

Page Mayor Levi Tappan initially sent a letter to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, asking to work together to reopen Antelope Point Marina, Antelope Canyon, and other parks on the Navajo reservation.

That letter was subsequently posted on a community page on Facebook. Someone reacted to the letter by posting a photo of Nez with a face mask on with a comment that read: “He’s busy fighting hard for our people.”

Mayor Tappan then replied to that comment, saying “I wish he [Nez] would battle alcoholism as hard as COVID19” along with a photo of a group of people drinking. 

When asked about his inappropriate comment by 12News, Tappan replied, “I didn’t say anything about Native Americans. I only talked about alcoholism. That was not an attack on the Navajo Nation or President Nez. We admire what he’s doing for our communities.”

RELATED: Two Heroes: The Navajo Nation Mourns Sisters Who Both Died From COVID-19 in April

After further pressing about whether he was referring to Navajo Nation President Nez, Tappan told 12News, “That was not the intent of the comment.” 

In response, the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President openly asked Mayor Tappan in a press release to unite communities, not divide people following “stereotypical and insensitive comments that were posted on social media.”

Nez said, “We, as elected leaders, should be working together to unite our people, especially when we are losing so many relatives to COVID-19, not tearing each other down and singling out Native Americans in regards to alcohol issues.”

Nez added that he wants to take the high road.

“Let’s set an example for all people by being respectful with our comments as well. Yes, let’s be firm and stand our ground, but let’s also remember the teachings of our elders and be thoughtful with our words. Words have power and we must use them carefully.”

As of May 1, the Navajo Nation has 2,373 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 73 deaths. 

This video highlights the major impact COVID-19 has had on the Navajo Nation (Interactive Video Graphic by Arnie Bermudez)

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