An Anti-Mask Mob Hurled Racist Insults at a Public Health Official

Dr. Faisal Khan was just doing his job.
July 29, 2021, 4:55pm
​St. Louis County Council​
St. Louis County Council

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The acting director for the St. Louis County Department of Public Health was just doing his job: offering guidance during a county council meeting in which officials sought to rescind a new mask mandate.

His expert opinion, according to local media, was that rescinding was a bad idea. 

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“If the council, in its infinite wisdom, negates this public health order, there will be more misery,” Dr. Faisal Khan told officials Tuesday, noting the steady rise of the Delta variant, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There will be more infection. There will be more death.”

But, for the simple offense of providing this warning, Khan said he was confronted by a seemingly anti-mask, pro-MAGA crowd that assaulted, mocked, and berated him both inside and outside the council chambers. He was even called a “fat brown cunt” and “brown bastard,” according to a letter Khan wrote to Council Chair Rita Heard Days on Wednesday. 

What’s more, the county council voted 5-2 to end the mandate despite Khan’s advice, adding fuel to the raging dumpster fire that is America’s twin crisis: a persistent, deadly pandemic, and the constant politicization of the means to control it. For months now, public health officials like Khan have been under attack or subjected to threats by those who oppose masks and vaccines. Now, they’re resigning or retiring in droves. 

“I have worked to improve public health around the world, working in Australia, Vietnam, Pakistan, South Africa, the People's Republic of China, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the United States (West Virginia, Massachusetts and Missouri). I have been a proud citizen of the United States since 2013,” Khan said in his letter.

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“In all that time and in all those places, I have never been subjected to the racist, xenophobic, and threatening behavior that greeted me in the County Council meeting last night,” he added. 

Fed up, Khan at one point flipped off a person who had attacked him with racial slurs during the fracas, he said. He’s not exactly keen on apologizing, either, he added in his letter, which pointed to one official in particular as an instigator: Republican Councilman Tim Fitch, who sponsored the resolution to stop mask requirements, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Political operatives—and even Mr. Fitch himself—have sought to use my instinctive reaction as political fodder against me,” Khan wrote. “I would like to think that I would not react like that because it risks creating a distraction from what should be a consensus around masking and vaccines.”

“I have to say, however, that when faced with the racist vitriol that Councilman Fitch has been privately and publicly stoking against me since my appointment, I cannot say I am sorry.”

Khan also called out Mark McCloskey—one half of the gun-toting couple who made international headlines for brandishing firearms at racial justice protesters last year—as one of his harassers. McCloskey, who is also running for a U.S. Senate seat, was seated behind Khan as he offered his testimony to the council, Khan said.

A spokesperson for McCloskey’s campaign denied any heckling in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Fitch, who Khan described as a friend to McCloskey, has slammed Khan’s letter, calling it a “desperate attempt at deflection and diversion” by St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who has said the mask mandate is somehow still in place despite the council’s vote, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“We as elected officials cannot stand by and let the Delta variant rack up more and more victims each and every day,” Page said of the mask mandate, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Masks will help slow the spread of the virus while we continue to vaccinate as many people as we can.”