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Virtual info session for black-owned businesses hacked with racial slur, porn

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Recording of Zoom meeting courtesy of Scott Goss
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A public Zoom call hosted by the Legislative Black Caucus Wednesday was hacked with a racial slur, a swastika and porn. 

The info session was meant to encourage African American-owned businesses, churches and not-for-profits to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware), Congressman Dwight Evans (D-Pa. 3rd District) and officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Delaware Division of Small Business and the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council presented. 

Toward the planned end of the call, the host screen showing a Powerpoint presentation with photos and contact information for members of the Legislative Black Caucus went black. A racial slur and a swastika appeared scrawled on the screen. 

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 “Oh my god. Oh my god,” said District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration John Fleming.

“I see someone has joined and— you know, we rebuke hate,” Rep. Blunt Rochester responded immediately. “We know that there’s a bigger plan here. It’s all about love and caring for each other as a part of a large community.” 

Less than a minute later, a pornographic image appeared. 

Similar disruptions to public Zoom calls have been widely reported elsewhere. 

State Sen. Darius Brown (D- Wilmington) said Wednesday night the racist hack felt targeted. 

“There is no accident in a minority-focused call being hacked with a swastika and the word [N-word],” he said. “I believe that’s pretty intentional.” 

Brown called the incident a distraction. 

“We’re trying to do something to help minority businesses gain access to capital in the midst of the COVID pandemic to keep their doors open," said Brown. "Then these racial epithets now take away from the substance ... of the work.”

Brown says he hopes the incident will raise awareness for lenders of the “many subtle and overt racial underlying impediments to minority businesses staying operating” as such businesses apply for PPP loans. 

Blunt Rochester released a video statement about the incident Wednesday evening. 

“It was racist, it was sexist — it was immature," she said. "My first reaction was not to be upset. My first reaction was that we will not let hate take us down. And I think that that is the message right now for this whole epidemic ... For those of you doing those things that exemplify love every single day, thank you."

The Zoom meeting was hosted by a state Senate account, according to Scott Goss, a spokesperson for the Delaware Senate Democratic Caucus. Both Goss and Brown said they could not speak to any security measures taken to prevent a hack.

 

This story has been updated to include additional comment from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.