The Nevada governor and his wife were accosted and chased from a restaurant in Las Vegas on Sunday, as two men, one a rightwing “digital creator”, shouted profanities and threats.
In a statement, Steve Sisolak said the men shouted “racist threats” at his wife, Kathy Sisolak, who is of Chinese heritage.
The Sisolaks planned to meet their daughter at the restaurant. They were not accompanied by security guards.
Cellphone video posted to social media showed a man in a red T-shirt reading “Cannabis and Combat” asking Sisolak for a picture. While posing with his arm around the governor, the man began to insult him.
The man was identified by news outlets as Justin Andersch, a “digital creator” who posts anti-government rightwing conspiracy theories on a blog called Cannabis and Combat. The Las Vegas Sun reported that Andersch took credit for accosting the Sisolaks on a podcast he creates.
“Where’s your security at, punk, huh?” Andersch was heard to say in the video, pointing his cellphone at Steve Sisolak’s face.
The governor turned to leave. As Kathy Sisolak joined him, Andersch followed, saying: “You working-for-China piece of shit.”
Several suspected hate crimes have recently been reported in Las Vegas and Nevada. Last August, an elected official in rural Nye county declared, without evidence, that Kathy Sisolak had family members in China profiting from selling items related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sisolak said then: “Kathy and I, along with so many others, have worked hard to fight back against the anti-Asian racism brought on by misinformation regarding Covid-19, but comments like these only take us backward.”
On Sunday, a second man also followed Sisolak and his wife out of the restaurant, shouting that the governor deserved to be hanged.
“We should string you up by a lamp post right now,” Andersch said. “You’re running into a patriot now.”
In the parking lot, Sisolak’s daughter, Ashley Sisolak, a lawyer and public defender, rushed over to her parents.
“Because your daughter’s with you, I’m going to leave you alone now,” Andersch said.
Nevada police confirmed they were aware of the incident at the restaurant and were investigating.
In a statement, Sisolak said: “We can disagree about the issues but the personal attacks and threats are unwarranted, unwelcome and unbecoming behavior for Nevadans.”
Siolak’s press aide, Meghin Delaney, said the governor was “deeply disappointed in how this incident unfolded, particularly with the language used to talk about First Lady Kathy Sisolak’s heritage”.