A virtual conversation held by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes was "Zoombombed" by people posting racial slurs and playing offensive music, according to a post on Hayes' Facebook page.
Hayes said it happened during a virtual conversation with the people of Newtown on Monday. In a blog post, Hayes said the conversation was part of a series of Zoom meetings she is holding as part of her campaign for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the blog post, Hayes said about 10 minutes into the meeting, she heard someone say "shut up, [N-word]" and she was unsure how to react. "I catch a glimpse of all the faces of the people who have just joined the meeting. They are mortified, shocked, embarrassed, hurting and I could tell they didn't know what to do next," Hayes detailed in her blog post about the incident.
She said she smiled and calmly waited for her communications team to handle the situation where the participant was muted and removed.
Once Hayes started speaking again, she said it happened again from another participant, but this time, the racial slur was on a loop set to music. She said her communications team muted and removed the second person from the meeting.
The same thing was then repeated by two additional people, Hayes said.
"Six minutes of vile, disgusting, dare I say deplorable hate, and I am on full display as I process, in real time, what is happening," Hayes recalled in her blog post.
After all of the disruptive participants were removed, Hayes said she finished the meeting on a high note. "We end the meeting on a high note and I assure them that I am unfazed by what the just witnessed," Hayes said.
After the call ends, she said she checked on her team and instructed them to report the incident and then posted a section of the Zoom chat to her social media.
"I cannot even reflect on what just happened because I have to be sure my team is ok. I sign out of my computer, but not before I post a screenshot of a section of the Zoom chat which read, "Shut up [N-word] go pick your cotton,' repeated in all caps over and over, fully appreciating the fact that cries of 'identity politics' are sure to commence," she said in her blog post.
"During our virtual conversation, these people continued to call me the N-word, play disgusting derogatory music and flood the chat with comments like this," she said in her post. The comments she is talking about include racial slurs, according to her Facebook post.
Later in her blog post, Hayes said she is not ok after the incident.
"Many will question why I would post something so raw and offensive? It is because I realized in that moment that I am not ok. I am not ok that this happened. I am not ok, that this is not the first time this has happened in my life or that I’ve had to explain that this happens. I am not ok, that I have to post a screenshot to prove it happened. I am not ok, that people will still doubt that it happened or the word of the forty or so participants on the call will be a necessary to “verify” the incident happened," she posted.
"I am not ok, that I will have to delicately explain to people that this happens- here. I am not ok, that many will try and separate/defend these words and actions and will not see that these comments are not about policy or politics- they are about racism and hate and challenge our decency. I am not ok! I said it- I admit it, I am not ok," she continued.
Hayes added in her Facebook post that she feels this behavior is being normalized. "We can all choose not to accept it. Please vote on November 3rd," Hayes posted.
Republican David X. Sullivan, one of Hayes' opponents in the November election, responded to the incident, saying, "it is appalling that a bigoted coward would direct insults at Congresswoman Hayes, interfere and disrupt a legitimate campaign activity, and besmirch the reputation of the good people of the 5th district of Connecticut."
NBC Connecticut reached out to Hayes' other opponent Bruce Walczak for a response, but so far haven't gotten a response.
There are now investigations into this incident.
Hayes says two of the email addresses linked to the attack likely belong to real people.
Her campaign reported it to the capitol police and are also reporting it to the FBI
The congresswoman says that despite this incident, she will continue to meet with her constituents in this way and she is not broken.