Gisele Barreto Fetterman, the wife of Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, went to the grocery store on Sunday to pick up some golden kiwis.
It was a last-minute dash, so she headed to a local Aldi store without the state troopers who usually protect her. Three boxes of kiwis in hand, Ms. Fetterman was standing in line to pay when a woman stopped and stared at her.
“‘Oh, there is that N-word that Fetterman married,’” Ms. Fetterman recalled the woman saying to her, emphasizing in a phone interview on Monday that the woman used the racial slur without abbreviating it. Ms. Fetterman is the wife of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democrat.
Ms. Fetterman, who shared an account of the encounter in a tweet on Sunday night, said she froze. The woman kept repeating, “You don’t belong here” before walking away, she said.
Shaken, Ms. Fetterman paid for her produce and headed to her car. The woman reappeared, pulling down her purple mask and repeating the racial slur to Ms. Fetterman, who recorded the encounter and shared it with her followers on social media
Word of the encounter spread just three weeks before a presidential election in which Pennsylvania is set to reprise its role as an important battleground state. President Trump, who won the state by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016, is now trailing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in nearly every poll.
The partisan rancor remains intense, particularly around the subject of coronavirus restrictions. Ms. Fetterman’s husband and Gov. Tom Wolf, both Democrats, have clashed with Republicans openly defying stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and other efforts to stop the spread of the disease.
In her tweet, Ms. Fetterman said, “I love love love this country but we are so deeply divided.”
“This behavior and this hatred is taught,” she added. “If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead.
Ms. Fetterman said in an interview on Monday that the Pennsylvania State Police had identified the woman in the video and were investigating.
The State Police confirmed that on Tuesday. “No charges have been filed at this time, however investigators have identified the woman depicted in the video shared by Ms. Fetterman,” Ryan Tarkowski, a spokesman for the agency, said in a statement. “The findings of the investigation will be forwarded to the Allegheny County District Attorney for review.”
A native of Brazil, Ms. Fetterman, 38, is a former undocumented immigrant who came with her mother and brother to New York City before she turned 8. She said she received her green card in 2004 and became a citizen in 2009.
She and Mr. Fetterman married in 2008 and have three children. They live in Braddock, Pa., a borough east of Pittsburgh where Mr. Fetterman was formerly the mayor.
Mr. Fetterman, who was once dubbed “the coolest mayor in America,’’ and “the mayor of Hell” has developed a cult following over the years. The shaven-headed 6-foot-8 politician has his town’s 15104 ZIP code tattooed on the inside of one arm. The other arm features the dates when people in the town died from “senseless violence” while he was mayor.
Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Fetterman wore a homemade mask to urge residents to don masks.
Ms. Fetterman said the grocery store is about a two-minute drive from her home.
She said that she had been the target of hateful comments online and in emails, but that Sunday’s encounter was the first time she had been attacked in person.
“I have had a good amount of hate toward me,” she said. “I have learned to get used to them and the right thing to say. It’s become normal for me. It’s never been to my face in public. No one is immune to that.”
Her tweet, which had been viewed more than one million times as of Tuesday morning, drew reactions on social media from lawmakers.
In a statement, Aldi said that the company was “appalled by the behavior of the offending customer and she is no longer welcome to shop at Aldi.”
The grocery store chain added that the shopper’s actions do not represent the company or “anyone associated with our company.”
“We must stand together against racism in America,” the statement said. “We absolutely do not tolerate harassment, discrimination or mistreatment of our customers or employees, and we condemn it in all forms.”
The company said it had also reached out to Ms. Fetterman “to ensure she feels safe and welcome in our stores anytime.”
“The ethnic intimidation and hate speech spewed at the Second Lady of Pennsylvania is shameful and unacceptable,” Governor Wolf said on Twitter.
“It’s on us to teach our children kindness, acceptance and inclusion, and condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it,” Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter. Another Pennsylvania Democrat, Representative Mary Gay Scanlon, said on Twitter that “hate has no place here.”
Ms. Fetterman said she hoped that people treat the woman who accosted her at the grocery store “with compassion and teach her different.”
“I know I wasn’t the first one on the receiving end of this,” she said, “but I hope to be the last one with her personally.”