Mayor Cantrell seen yelling, making obscene gesture to passing Carnival float
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was seen yelling and making an obscene hand gesture toward riders on a Carnival parade float, in a video that went viral on social media Sunday (Feb. 19).
It was not known what prompted Cantrell’s outburst. But a statement issued Sunday night by the mayor’s Communications Director Gregory Joseph attempted to portray the incident in a playful light.
“Mardi Gras is a time where satire and jest are on full display,” Joseph wrote. “The City has been enjoying a safe and healthy Carnival and is looking forward continuing the celebration on Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras.”
The video was posted on the Instagram account “i.am.nola.af,” which said it received the clip from a follower who wished to remain anonymous. It was not known how many people have viewed the clip, but the post had received more than 2,200 “likes” and over 400 comments in its first six hours online, and had already been reposted widely.
The video appears to have been recorded by a float rider using a cellphone. The Instagram host for the clip said the context of the incident was unknown, but that it had occurred Saturday, as the Krewe of Tucks made its way past the mayor’s official parade stands outside Gallier Hall.
In the video, Cantrell is heard yelling, “I love you. God bless you. I’ll see you. Happy Mardi Gras. Enjoy your ride. So glad your ride was good. Love you.” As she says the final two words, she pointedly raises a middle finger toward the riders.
“This was pretty shocking,” said Fox 8 political analyst Dr. Robert Collins, a professor of public policy at Dillard University. “I’m a former political PR person myself. ... I have never seen a mayor behave this way -- any mayor. So, it was pretty shocking.
“Yes, it’s Mardi Gras. Yes, you can have fun. But, as the chief executive officer of the City of New Orleans, you have to maintain a certain level of decorum at all times. Because you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing the City of New Orleans. So, yes, I would say the behavior was very shocking. And I’ve never seen any behavior like this from any previous mayor -- or from any public official in the City of New Orleans -- that I can recall.”
Cantrell is awaiting the outcome of a petition drive aimed at forcing her into a recall election later this year. Petition organizers must submit their signatures to the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters by Wednesday (Feb. 22), and last week said they believed they were 1,029 signatures away from success.
But the organizers also filed a lawsuit last week, alleging parish registrar Sandra Wilson has not carefully purged the rolls of ineligible voters as required annually. They claim to have found more than 30,000 errors, and hope to reduce the overall number of eligible, registered and active Orleans Parish voters being counted. That, in turn, would lower the number of signatures required to trigger the recall vote. State law requires a recall petition to be signed by 20 percent of active registered voters to be validated as successful.
Collins said the new images of the mayor raising her middle finger toward float riders won’t help her cause.
“Her detractors are arguing that the mayor is out of control, she’s detached,” Collins said. “Now, if you have a mayor that is giving an obscene hand gesture to people that are on a float, they’re obviously just going to take that video and run it on all their social media sites.
“It reinforces their argument that the mayor is detached and out of control. It plays into the narrative of her detractors, of her opponents. So it was not a smart move on the part of the mayor.”
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