The State of Utah sent face masks showing a handgun and controversial political image to a Salt Lake City family.
The free masks are part of the “A Mask For Every Utahn” campaign, where federal COVID-19 money purchased more than two million masks to stop the spread of the virus.
“I was just shocked,” said Chrstine Passey-Spencer outside her Rose Park home.
Two masks delivered to the family show an American flag with a handgun printed across them with “Don't Tread on Me” written below a coiled rattlesnake.
“I think the thing that bothered me most is that I knew my tax dollars paid for this and this is very politically charged speech,” Passey-Spencer said.
The “Don't Tread on Me” image stems from the Revolutionary War but has become controversial in recent years. The Gadsden Flag has been used by the Tea Party, anti-gun control activists and white supremacists.
In 2016, it was deemed to have “racially-tinged” messaging in some contexts by the federal government.
More recently, the image has been used by people believing COVID-19 health restrictions take away their constitutional rights.
“We hope this is an isolated incident that we just missed these couple of masks,” said Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s Ben Hart, who oversees the state’s mask program.
Since April, the state purchased millions of masks from local and international manufacturers.
Hart admits about 100 of the “Don't Tread on Me” masks were included in a shipment last month. Hart says the staff deemed them “inappropriate” and attempted to set all of them aside.
“We will not be using taxpayer dollars to pay for these masks. We will be working with the manufacturer and ensuring we do not pay for them,” said Hart.
The governor’s office replaced the masks for Passey-Spencer on Tuesday.