On Wednesday, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s daughter, Tierra Gonzalez, tweeted a joke that was all too real.
“I hope whoever marries me is okay marrying into a blood feud against … @RobSchneider,” she wrote.
In hindsight, Jessica Biel’s entry into the California Legislature’s vaccine debate should have alerted us that a re-emergence of this feud was on the horizon.
In one corner: Gonzalez, who represents portions of San Diego in the state Assembly. In the other: Rob Schneider, an actor known for his roles on “SNL” and “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.”
Gonzalez’s beef with Schneider began in 2015, when she co-wrote the state law eliminating the ability of families whose children attend public or private schools or daycares to obtain personal belief exemptions from vaccine requirements.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaAD80) February 11, 2015
That round of vaccine fighting was similarly vicious and included other celebrities as well – Gonzalez told me at the time that though actress Jenna Elfman also opposed the bill, they had a good discussion about it.
John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” was fascinated by Schneider’s role in the vaccine debate and featured his fight with Gonzalez in a 2017 segment.
Two years later, thanks to SB 276, the feud has come roaring back.
In the years since that 2015 measure passed, medical vaccine exemptions have surged across California. That’s prompted a new effort to curb improper medical exemptions, SB 276. That measure, and the earlier law, were written by state Sen. Richard Pan, who’s also a pediatrician. In announcing the medical vaccine reform bill, Pan noted a Voice of San Diego report that found a single doctor was responsible for writing nearly a third of all the medical vaccine exemptions doled out to San Diego Unified students.
Last month, the bill underwent an overhaul to address some critics’ concerns, including ones expressed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Gonzalez chairs the Appropriations Committee, and as part of the normal process, moved the bill to the so-called suspense file with other qualifying bills. She allowed public comment on the bill, and activists decided to turn out. One of them posted a video calling Gonzalez a “criminal” who was going to be put on notice.
Tensions were high. After the meeting, activists circulated another video purporting to show Gonzalez behaving rudely to the speakers (part of the behavior to which they took offense included an explanation of legislative rules on public comments).
And that set off Schneider.
“Any human being that watches THIS video and how YOU TREATED that Latin Woman, can see you @LorenaSGonzalez for what you are, a DISGUSTING, DISGRACEFUL, DICTATORIAL POWER ABUSER!”
At some point, the barrage drew in Gonzalez’s husband, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
The difference between me & U @RobSchneider is that I fight to protect school kids from measles. We both changed parties (in opposite directions) & both served in military. Me for a decade in USMC (multiple combat deployments) & you for 93 minutes in “Down Periscope” #YouCanDoIt https://t.co/8IIGaEFLIW
— Nathan Fletcher (@nathanfletcher) July 17, 2019
Humbled by Fletcher’s military service and intrigued by his argument, Schneider agreed to discuss his objections to SB 276 offline.
Just kidding! He proceeded to tweet more insults, calling Gonzalez a “sellout” and using the hashtag #LawlessLorena.
“I guess he was angry about being punked on John Oliver and so now he is going crazy on me (and Nathan) because he believes vaccines cause autism and we believe in science,” Gonzalez said in a statement sent by her spokeswoman.
Fletcher, for his part, got called out by Schneider for switching parties. That led Fletcher to shoot back and then challenge the actor to a debate. NBC 7 San Diego offered to host it.
All completely normal events in California politics carrying on completely normally.
SB 276’s next stop is back in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Aug. 29, which, remember, is chaired by Gonzalez.
Schneider, however, might be heartened to hear that the committee is vice chaired by a Republican who happens to be named Bigelow.