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Helen Gym
Helen Gym at press release to unveil multi-legislative package to protect abortions. Photo: Carlos Nogueras / AL DÍA News

Footage captures Helen Gym at a Union League event almost a week after protesting its existence

Gym, lauded as a rising progressive in Philly’s Democratic party, grapples with social media fallout following her attendance.

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Progressive mayoral candidate Helen Gym is now dealing with the fallout of what appears to be footage of her attending an event at the Union League on Monday, Jan. 30, less than a week after condemning an award ceremony, held by the same venue, for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. 

Award-winning Black journalist Ernest Owens published a clip that identified Gym on his Twitter profile late Monday night, hours after she garnered an endorsement from the Working Families Party. 

The source of the clip, and specifics surrounding the individual who took it, remain unclear. 

On Jan. 24, Gym echoed the ire of Democrats when the Union League, a centuries-old club in Philly that caters to exclusivity, hosted DeSantis, who is one of the most controversial political leaders within the GOP, and whose ‘anti-woke’ crusade has resulted in the removal of critical classroom material — including AP African-American studies, and math textbooks and the ‘Don’t say gay’ bill. 

“Philly will always stand against the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, and the bigotry that 

@TheUnionLeague decided to honor today. Hate has no home here. #ByeDeSantis,” Gym wrote on Twitter.

But surfaced footage of an annual event — of which Gym was an attendee — drew substantial criticism on social media, specifically around the timing of her appearance, which was less than a week after protesting the DeSantis award and hours after a mayoral endorsement from the Working Families Party.

The Working Families Party declined to comment for this story. 

And although details of the event are unclear, as is Gym’s reasoning for attending it, she responded to the rapidly multiplying criticism on her social media, with an apology. 

“Earlier this evening, I made a stop at the annual meeting of an event that I have attended in the past. It was a mistake. I apologize for attending.”

DeSantis is one of the rumored candidates considered viable enough by the GOP to challenge Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election. Former President Donald Trump confirmed a presidential campaign, whereas DeSantis has not. 

“I have been very clear that I opposed the Union League’s honoring of Ron DeSantis. I have also made clear that the Union League has been problematic long before DeSantis’ appearance,” Gym continued in her Twitter statement. 

Critics, including Owens, pointed to Gym’s shifting optics in her public appearances and how they coincide with her private network

The Helen Gym campaign has not responded to requests for comment. 

Week four of January had been strong for the campaign. Gym started the day with a coveted endorsement from the Working Families Party, an organization with increasing influence in Philly City Council since ushering in Councilmember Kendra Brooks in 2019. 

“I'm honored to earn the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which has led a nationwide effort for a fair economy, a safer, more just nation, and a government that works for the people, not special interests,” Gym said, accepting the endorsement. 

Poised to deliver a lasting message, Gym’s remarks were accompanied by those of Brooks — whom Gym supported in her election — and Nicholas O’Rourke, currently a WFP candidate continuing the work of the organization in 2019.

Brooks, Gym, and West Philly Councilmember Jamie Gauthier are part of a new class of progressive Democrats in City Council whose contributions made frequent headlines for disrupting business as usual, and advancing progressive causes. 

Gym, with decades of organizing work under her belt, spearheaded efforts to curb evictions through mediation, and the legislation itself served as a national framework for the White House.

She also enacted expanded regulations to safeguard transgender youth in school vis-a-vis pronoun usage, privacy, and confidentiality as it pertains to gender identity and written policy for non-discrimination in schools. 

A history of organizing for progressive causes, compounded with some of her city council work, lent her the trappings of one of the most highly anticipated mayoral runs, announced officially in late November. 

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