Page Mayor apologizes for Navajo Nation alcoholism remarks
PHOENIX — Levi Tappan, Mayor of Page, Arizona, apologized on Sunday after allegedly commenting on Facebook that he wished Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez would “battle alcoholism as hard as COVID-19” with a photograph of what appears to be Native Americans standing along a street.
According to the Navajo Times, Tappan’s comments were in response to a woman who replied to a Facebook post about Tappan asking the Navajo Nation administration in a letter on April 29 to work with the city to allow access to tribal parks in the area.
The woman said Nez is busy fighting hard for the Navajo Nation people amid the coronavirus outbreak, the article stated, and posted a picture of the Navajo Nation President greeting an elderly woman through a closed window with a mask and gloves.
Tappan, who was elected in 2018, later edited the comment to “I wish we would battle alcoholism as hard as COVID-19,” and apologized to Nez for the misunderstanding, according to the Navajo Times.
The post on the Facebook group — Page, Arizona Community Bulletin Board — where the comments appeared has since been deleted and the page’s privacy setting was changed from public to private, the article states.
Nez and Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer in a press release on Sunday called on Tappen to work with the Navajo Nation to unite efforts to fight the virus.
“We, as elected leaders, should be working together to unite our people especially when we are losing so many relatives to COVID-19, not tearing each other down and singling out Native Americans in regards to alcohol issues,” Nez said in the release.
“Yes, we recognize that there is a problem and we stand ready to work with Mayor Tappen to address the issues rather than writing insensitive comments to our constituents on social media,” Nez added, saying Tappan’s comments could have far-reaching implications and influence on relations of people in the Navajo Nation and Page.
The mayor told the Navajo Times on Sunday morning that he meant to say that he wished the number of resources being used for the coronavirus outbreak could also be used to combat alcoholism in Page and the Navajo Nation, adding he knows that coronavirus is deadly but alcohol is more deadly than COVID-19.
Nez and Lizer in the release invited Tappen and his administration to join the two to distribute food, water and other supplies to high-risk members of the Navajo Nation in communities near the Page.
Navajo Department of Health officials reported Saturday that there are 2,292 positive cases of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation — located in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — with 73 known deaths related to the virus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.