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Hackers interrupted Crohn's and Colitis Foundation virtual ball with racist messages

What was supposed to be an evening of celebration was disrupted Saturday night, when intruders managed to hack into an externally hosted chat platform at the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation's Winter Ball.

Elliot reported that the words "congrats [racial slur]" appeared repeatedly in the chat during a presentation from Roslyn Bazzelle Mitchell, a Black honoree. An attorney, accessories designer, fitness expert, mother and wife, Mitchell is one of this year’s 10 Women of Distinction.

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“It happened within a matter of seconds,” said Leigh Ellen Key, executive director of the foundation’s South Texas Chapter. “Essentially there would be a quick series of the word before the users were cut off. Unfortunately, they were able to pop back in again.”

Mitchell was celebrating with a small group of friends for a watch party Saturday night when she was made aware of what was going on, and said she had to immediately step away to process what happened.

“This is one of those things where I’m trying not to take it personally," she said, as reported by Elliot. "But the fact that someone saw an African-American woman being celebrated, and had the angst to want to tear that down and put me in my place ... I’m just trying to channel that into action."

Despite the interruption, Mitchell said the event still managed to raised $400,000 to fund inflammatory bowel disease research.

On Sunday, the foundation sent emails to supporters stating, in part, that they are deeply committed to anti-racism and deeply "regret that our participants had to see such terrible language in what we had intended to be a safe place where we could celebrate our community and our honorees," as reported by Elliot.

According to the Foundation's vice president of marketing and communications Sharon Saias, they have a transcript of the exchange and an investigation is underway.

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