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Gillum campaign fires staffer who wore explicit anti-Trump shirt after offensive tweets surface

Manny Orozco-Ballestas, who had worked previously for Philip Levine's gubernatorial campaign, was named the Gillum campaign's director of youth outreach less than two weeks ago.
A screen grab from a Republican Party of Florida release showing an Andrew Gillum campaign staffer, months before he joined the campaign, donning an explicit shirt. Credit: RPOF [screen grab]
A screen grab from a Republican Party of Florida release showing an Andrew Gillum campaign staffer, months before he joined the campaign, donning an explicit shirt. Credit: RPOF [screen grab]
Published Sep. 29, 2018|Updated Sep. 29, 2018

An Andrew Gillum campaign staffer who drew controversy for an explicit shirt referencing President Donald Trump's voters was fired at the end of the week after several offensive past tweets were surfaced early Saturday morning.

Screenshots of Manny Orozco-Ballestas' now-deleted tweets, which were posted by Orlando-area fringe conservative blogger Jacob Engels, depict several messsages degrading to women and body-shaming.

The purported tweets from the former Gillum staffer date back to 2012 and 2013. They include a response to Trump saying "you need to be executed," a tweet criticizing obese people for posting food pictures on Instagram, and a graphic implying pacifiers for babies are "preparing" them for oral sex.

Engels, who has contributed to the controversial Infowars website and is a Roger Stone ally, wrote in his post that the photos were provided to him anonymously.

"The type of language this young man used on social media before his employment with our campaign is unacceptable and he will no longer be working with the campaign," said Gillum campaign spokesperson Joshua Karp in a statement.

The campaign did not respond to questions asking when he was fired; Orozco-Ballestas' Twitter account appeared to be taken down later Saturday morning.

In a statement, Orozco-Ballestas, 24, apologized for his past tweets.

"I took social media for granted when I was younger and I am now facing the consequences," he wrote. "I'm so sorry to all those I let down, especially Mayor Gillum and my team. What I tweeted as an immature student many years ago is not a reflection of the man I am today."

Orozco-Ballestas had been brought on as the campaign's youth director less than two weeks ago. But he quickly drew controversy after a photo he had posted on Instagram last summer —labeling states that voted for Trump "Dumbf***istan" — was also raised by Engels.

The Republican Party of Florida cited Engels' report Thursday in calling on Gillum to apologize and fire him for the photo. "It is unbelievable to me that Andrew Gillum would not only employ, but promote on social media, a person who calls voters 'dumb f*cks' for electing Republicans," RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. "It is hypocritical for Gillum to endorse the same kind of hateful, intolerant speech that he likes to denounce."

At the time, Gillum spokeswoman Carlie Waibel had said that the campaign won't "be lectured about words by the Party of Trump… The anti-Trump shirt he wore before he was hired wasn't funny or in any way related to our campaign and we've addressed that with him."

Before joining the Gillum campaign, Orozco-Ballestas was the youth outreach director for Philip Levine's gubernatorial run.

This story has been updated with Orozco-Ballestas' statement. Tampa Bay Times staffer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.


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