A Mesa man’s tweets on health care and his call for donations after a car crash have gone viral. Video credit: Aydali Campa/azcentral.com
About a year ago, at 20 years old, Alex Newman of Mesa decided to change his political affiliation.
He felt empowered, even leaning into the persona with a new moniker: Sassy Gay Republican.
In February, he created the Twitter account @SassyGayRepub and began sharing posts and videos about his conservative thoughts, such as criticizing the Affordable Care Act mandate that everyone have health insurance.
Although some of his posts have gone viral before, an incident this month took the attention to a new level.
On Sept. 12, he posted that he was in a serious crash while working as a pizza-delivery driver and went to the hospital.
“The hospital they sent me to didn’t take my insurance, so now I’m having second thoughts about not having free healthcare cause this is bad,” he posted, and created an online donation page to raise money.
A few days later, he said workers’ compensation would be covering his hospital visit but that his car insurance would not be covering the collision.
“Guys (please) pray for me during this rough time. Really didn’t plan on insurance bailing on me. I’ll see what God wants me to do,” he tweeted.
Some quickly pounced on what they saw as hypocrisy: a Republican and Affordable Care Act opponent complaining about his insurance coverage and asking for donations. One tweet comparing his tweets before and after the crash and calling it a “drama in four acts” was liked more than 200,000 times and reposted by model Chrissy Teigen.
As his tweets and others criticizing him have gone viral, many have accused him of making up the incident, using old photos that weren’t his, and being a fraud.
“There’s so much negative light on me right now,” Newman told The Arizona Republic on Thursday.
He said he has received death threats, including comments from people telling him to kill himself or saying they hope that he can “never walk again.”
‘If I ask from the government, I feel like I’m stealing’
Newman, now 21, lives in Mesa and studied social work at Mesa Community College.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety confirmed there was a crash involving three vehicles at Loop 202 and milepost 25 at 6:43 p.m. on Sept. 12, but would not confirm who was involved. The Republic requested the accident report but did not receive it in time for publication.
He said he was entering Loop 202 and was distracted by a nearby car on fire when he slammed into the vehicle in front of him at 65 mph.
DPS said no one in the crash was taken to a hospital. Newman said he decided to go to the hospital later that day after developing pain, particularly in his lower back.
Newman shared documents with The Republic showing that his car was towed, that he received a traffic ticket for speeding, that he visited the Dignity Health Arizona General Hospital emergency room in Mesa the night of his crash, and that he was prescribed pain medication.
He has health insurance through his parents and clarified that his tweets about insurance not covering the crash were referring to his car insurance.
“I did just use the donation money to buy myself another car so I can get working again,” he said.
He has raised about $3,000 online from 125 people, including some who appeared to be donating just to write a comment on the page.
“We’re just trying to point out the irony of your life choices, but we’re still giving you money — money that you need because you don’t understand how insurance works,” one man wrote with a $5 donation.
Although Newman created the fundraiser to cover potential medical costs as well, he said his health is improving and he isn’t expecting to need physical therapy.
“I feel like if I ask from the government, I feel like I’m stealing in a sense because when it comes to the government, people are being forced to pay into things they might not agree with or want to do,” Newman said.
“For me, it’s more meaningful to ask my friends, family and supporters on Twitter,” he said. “I felt like I was asking from people who wanted to give to me. They weren’t forced to or obligated to.”
Some have criticized the fact that this is the second fundraising page he’s created. He said the first one was to help him go to rehab.
“I know the ‘cries wolf’ thing sounds like it comes into play, but it was a tragedy that happened,” he said. “I’m obviously not gonna keep doing this.”
Turning criticism into celebrity
Newman said the reaction after Teigen joked about his crash and outlets such as BuzzFeed wrote about it has been overwhelming and upsetting but also helpful.
“I did get a little depressed about it because it was coming in huge waves,” he said, but the attention is ultimately helping his brand.
“I have a mission. Here’s the thing: You don’t hear about gay conservatives too often because look at what they’re doing to me. They’re tearing me down.”
He said he tries to listen to many points of view. For example, he supports President Donald Trump but not his pardon of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“His prison got shut down because it was inhumane,” he said. “Arizona voted Arpaio out for a reason.”
Ultimately, he hopes to grow his fan base and be the next Tomi Lahren, a conservative political commentator.
“I want to prove to the world there are gay conservatives out there and they don’t need to be shut down.”
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