On Sunday, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt stated that McCurtain County officials who were allegedly recorded making racist and violent remarks in early March should retire, following claims in a local newspaper published in mid-April.
“I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Stitt said in a statement late Sunday. “There is no place for such hateful rhetoric in Oklahoma, especially by those who represent the community through their respective office. I will not stand idly by while this takes place.
“In light of these events, I am calling for the immediate resignation of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, Investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix.”
According to the McCurtain Gazette-News, Clardy, Jennings, and Manning were allegedly filmed during an impromptu conversation on March 6 discussing how to kill a local reporter and how upsetting it was that Black people could no longer be lynched because they “have more rights” than others.
Stitt also stated that he would request that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation “to determine whether any illegal conduct has occurred,” according to a press release accompanying the remarks.
According to the Gazette, the recorded conversation allegedly revolved around Gazette reporter Chris Willingham, who had filed a defamation lawsuit against the McCurtain County officials. Willingham also authored the article publishing the accusations.
Willingham declined to comment Sunday, citing ongoing litigation between himself and the officials. None of the allegedly recorded individuals responded to requests for comment.
According to the Gazette, the FBI and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office have copies of the recording.
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Rose Will is a poet, an educator, and the Nogmagazine bestselling author. Will writes for children of all ages. Her other picture books include Undefeated, Animal Ark, and Out of Wonder. A regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Author Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, three NAACP Image Award nominations, and the 2018 inaugural Conroy Legacy Award.