Nevada Official Says Chinese Family of Governor's Wife Profiting From Mask Mandate

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak accused a county commissioner of making "blatantly racist comments" toward his wife, who was born in Ely, Nevada, to Chinese immigrant parents, during a meeting last week about COVID-19 masks.

Nye County's 3rd district commissioner, Donna Cox, lashed out at Kathy Sisolak, wife of the Democratic governor, suggesting she convinced her husband to reinstate a state mask mandate because her family will profit.

Bipartisan officials across Nevada blasted Cox for the remarks about the governor's wife, born Kathy Won Ong, who is a Nevada native and whose immigrant father was the first Chinese card dealer on Las Vegas' Fremont street in the late 1950s.

Cox's remarks at the August 3 commission meeting were first reported Sunday by The Nevada Independent. After claiming "the conspiracy theories we've said about the New World Order" are coming true, the Nye County commissioner went on to personally attack the governor's wife and family over the July 30 reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate.

"Now how long [Gov. Sisolak had] known her I have no idea, but she is Chinese," Cox said at the county commissioner meeting. "And you put two and two together, they actually said that her family in China own a company that's making a lot of money off of this issue. That she's here in the United States promoting and selling all these masks and emergency equipment and everything, and they're all being shipped over from China."

See my statement below about recent racist comments made against my wife and Nevada's First Lady, Kathy Sisolak:

— Steve Sisolak (@SteveSisolak) August 9, 2021

On July 27, the state issued an emergency directive for Nye County, one of 12 counties "currently deemed as having substantial or high transmission" of the Delta variant of COVID-19. Citing the newly revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines late last month, Sisolak backed the reinstatement of an indoor mask mandate regardless of one's vaccination status.

Although Republican officials across the state largely opposed the directive, the Nevada Senate Republicans issued a statement Monday condemning Cox's remarks about the governor's wife as "hurtful and misleading."

The Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community also issued a statement on Monday blasting Cox's remarks: "We stand with Governor Sisolak and First Lady, Kathy Sisolak and strongly condemn the vile racist attack from Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox. #StopAsianHate."

nevada governor wife kathy sisolak
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak accused a county commissioner of making "blatantly racist comments" toward his wife during a meeting last week. Above, Sisolak and his wife, Kathy Sisolak, attend a party at Wynn Las Vegas on July 8, 2021. DENISE TRUSCELLO / Contributor/Getty Images

According to the Nevada Women's History Project biography of the state's first lady, Kathy Sisolak was born in Ely, Nevada, in February of 1958 and grew up in Las Vegas.

CDC and state public health officials say the Delta variant of COVID-19 now accounts for a majority of the new cases springing up in Nevada and across the country. Despite this, numerous Nevada GOP officials, including fellow Nye County District 4 Commissioner Leo Blundo, have led adamant protests against mask mandates and vaccine proof requirements.

Blundo's wife, Melissa Blundo, is the founder and chair of the so-called "No Mask Nevada PAC," which the Nevada Independent reported has nearly 8,000 members, according to Blundo's estimates.

Newsweek reached out to Cox's Pahrump, Nevada, office Tuesday afternoon for any additional remarks.