A businessman who bragged about attending the “Stop the Steal” rally at the Capitol the day of the insurrection—and once blamed teachers for “the fall of our young people in this country”—has officially become a school board member in Louisiana’s largest district.
Rafael Rafidi was sworn into the Jefferson Parish school board during a special meeting on Wednesday, months after calling lawmakers who criticized Trump’s role in inciting the Capitol riot “traitors.” The move has angered teachers in the district, who say he wasn’t properly vetted.
“You and Mitch are fucking traitors you piece of shit!” Rafidi wrote last February, according to screenshots of his since-deleted social media posts by NOLA.com
The comments were a reply to a Twitter post from former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu who applauded Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) for having “voted his conscience” to convict former President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial in February last year. In addition to praising Cassidy, Landrieu suggested that Sen. John Kennedy (R) was “an embarrassment” for opposing Trump’s impeachment.
“Go fuck yourselves,” Rafidi added, separately calling Cassidy a “piece of shit.”
The businessman and contractor snagged the board spot after seven of nine members voted to appoint Rafidi as the interim successor to a board member who resigned at the end of last year. Only one board member, Ricky Johnson, voted against Rafidi’s appointment, while one other member, Simeon Dickerson, abstained.
Kesler Camese-Jones, president of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, said that Rafidi had not been properly reviewed before his swearing-in.
“No one really had an opportunity to vet this individual prior to his appointment,” Camese-Jones told The Daily Beast.
Teachers are “really upset,” she said, noting that some had aired concerns about his remarks being “very aggressive” and “anti-teacher.”
Dickerson told The Daily Beast on Thursday that he wasn’t aware of a majority of Rafidi’s stances, and it was only after he saw “several disturbing quotes” from Rafidi that his “position immediately changed from abstaining to this guy needs to go.”
Dickerson said that he is now calling for Rafidi’s resignation.
“I actually watched this guy take an oath to the Constitution, the very Constitution that he tried to overthrow just a year ago—the irony of it,” Dickerson said. “He attended the insurrection and he marched on the Capitol.”
While it is unclear from social media posts whether Rafidi had joined the throngs of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, Rafidi claimed that he was present for the address where Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell,” on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C.
“I was there, heard the entire speech and walked peacefully with thousands singing God bless America and praying on the way to the capital. What’s true now for sure is the FIX IS IN! And it’s all of you in the media and government. What a shame!” Rafidi tweeted days after the riot.
Within hours of Trump’s infamous speech, the Capitol became the literal stomping grounds of a bloody insurrection by his supporters.
When asked why he believed an overwhelming majority of the board had voted in favor of Rafidi’s appointment, Dickerson said that he hoped they didn’t know about “his past transgressions,” and that Rafidi had been recommended on the merits of his predecessor, Larry Dale, an 11-year veteran of the board.
Board President Clay Moise did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday.
In addition to his posts boasting about marching to the Capitol and blasting lawmakers who defied Trump, Rafidi had also previously disparaged teachers, suggesting in a 2018 tweet that they have “no values, no work ethic, and just suck as much as you can from those that work hard,” according to NOLA.com.
In that post, Rafidi declared that teachers were “the fall of our young people in this country.”
“I know some hard working teachers in Jefferson Parish that bust their tills every day,” Dickerson said, condemning the post to The Daily Beast. “It’s a direct slap in the face and he’s unfit to serve as a school board member. This is not what Jefferson Parish represents and this is not what a school board member represents.”
On Wednesday, Dickerson had addressed concerns about another post that appeared on one of Rafidi’s social media accounts and criticized the NFL for playing the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
Dickerson said he had reminded Rafidi that he would be serving on a school board that represented a majority of Black students.
Johnson, who had opposed Rafidi’s appointment, then pressed the businessman to “clean up” his social media posts.
“There are some things on your Facebook that I am just saying, as a board member, you might not want that one there,” Johnson said on Wednesday, according to NOLA.com. “You might want to clean up your Facebook.”
According to its website, the Jefferson Parish Public School System serves roughly 50,000 students and about 38 percent of its student population is Black.
Rafidi did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Thursday, but a number of the posts were deleted or removed from public view on Thursday. His Twitter account also appeared to be deleted on Thursday.
Camese-Jones said Thursday she plans to sit down with the board president to address the logistics of what happened.
“Did they know about this individual and still vote to accept him?”
Dickerson meanwhile believes Rafidi’s appointment could be damaging to the advancement of race relations in the county.
“This guy can do more damage in six month than all of us can do in eight years,” Dickerson said. “He’s bad for the progression of race relations in Jefferson Parish.”