Woman in viral anti-Pride video no longer a BMH employee

Carmen McClain (gray t-shirt, black pants) and girlfriend Jasmine Martinez (black shirt and black pants) at the “free speech” bridge in Alcoa. Photo by Jenna Stambaugh.

An employee at a Maryville hospital who became embroiled in controversy after accosting two LGBTQ teenagers for painting Pride graffiti on a bridge has lost her job, officials said.

The woman, identified as Tabitha Dardeau Travis, wasn’t identified by name in the statement issued Friday by Blount Memorial Hospital but has been identified through numerous other sources.

Travis approached the two teens on June 8 who were painting rainbow Pride flags on a well-known bridge in Alcoa at the intersection of Darwin Street and Faraday Street. The bridge has been designated as a free speech area by the City where people are allowed to express themselves through graffiti.  

“Many of you have reached out about a person who was identified as an employee of Blount Memorial who was recently involved in a confrontation and incident surrounding the painted bridge in the Alcoa community,” said the statement, which was published on the hospital’s Facebook page Friday.

“We can confirm that, through Friday, June 11, this person was a PRN employee of the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook, occasionally teaching fitness classes. We also can confirm that this person is no longer an employee of Blount Memorial.  

“We value and respect everyone in our community, and the actions displayed do not reflect the standards and values of our organization.”

Hospital officials didn’t say whether Travis had been terminated or had resigned. She couldn’t be reached for comment. 

The teens — Carmen McClain and her girlfriend, Jasmine Martinez — recorded video of the encounter on their cell phones and posted it to social media sites. The video showed Travis as she began to paint over the teens’ mural, arguing that she had a right to do so because she pays taxes. 

“I have just as much right as you, actually I have more damn right, because you know what? I work, I pay taxes, I’m an American, born here,” she said in the video. 

Both Martinez, a senior at Alcoa High School, and McClain, who goes to Heritage High School, have brown skin.  Martinez identifies as Hispanic and McClain as Italian and Native American.

The video prompted a massive backlash against Travis, who hasn’t made any public statements since the incident. 

McClain and Martinez didn’t respond to requests for comment Sunday.

Abi Lucas, LGBTQ activist, who came to the bridge to help repaint the Pride message and is hoping to put together a youth support group, said Sunday that she wished the situation hadn’t escalated to the point where Travis lost her employment.

“I am reasonably happy with the outcome. I really wish she didn’t have to lose her job, and get so much backlash from the community,” Lucas said. “It just goes to show there are repercussions for your actions, good or bad. I hope she learns from this experience and is able to recover by maybe giving back to the LQBTQ community, creating a positive impact.”

She added: “I’m extremely happy for Jasmine and Carmen as they are so young and handled this situation with grace. Even though this was an awful thing we made something really positive out of it and have so much more support from the community now.”

Jenna Stambaugh can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on June 20, 2021