A New York Post editorial board member has apologized for polling his Twitter followers on whether they’d rather contract COVID-19 or HIV, according to a Post spokesperson.
“Michael Benjamin’s tweet wasn’t meant maliciously — his intent was to compare the government’s response, or lack thereof, to both pandemics. But it was poorly executed, he has deleted it, and he apologizes,” a New York Post spokesperson told TheWrap Tuesday morning in response to a request for comment on Michael Benjamin’s tweet.
The tweet read, “Perspective: If you tested positive, which virus would you prefer?” The poll options were “HIV” or “COVID-19.”
As noted by the spokesperson, Benjamin’s tweet is now deleted from his still-functioning Twitter account, where he’s spent Tuesday tweeting about local politics in New York City, the coronavirus response and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. His poll was first flagged by the Gay City News, then amplified by LGBTQ+ advocacy group GLAAD.
Responses to the tweet’s critics are still active on his account, however. In one, Benjamin, a former New York state assemblyman, wrote, “It’s says ‘Perspective.’ You’re not forced to participate. If offended, please join another species.”
Tensions are high around the coronavirus outbreak, which has now been labeled a pandemic and given the distinction of being a national emergency. Elderly and immunocompromised individuals are particularly susceptible to the virus, and President Donald Trump and his administration have been criticized for the mixed messages coming from the White House regarding the severity of the virus and its spread. Historians and writers for weeks have been drawing parallels between the AIDS crisis of the 1980s — when LGBTQ+ individuals and drug users were particularly affected by the virus and President Ronald Reagan was criticized for his handling of the outbreak.