A mayor in Southern California resigned Thursday night after drawing backlash over a comment in an emailed statement.
“I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer,” the email from James Stewart, mayor of Temecula, Riverside County, had said.
Stewart initially blamed the emailed remark, distributed Wednesday, on an error in a speech-to-text translation of his dictated comments, the Valley News of Riverside County reported.
But on Thursday evening, following backlash in the city of about 115,000 residents, 74 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Stewart opted to step down.
He announced his resignation in a Facebook post.
“I understand that even my sincerest apologies cannot remedy this situation. Because actions speak louder than words, I will step down as your Mayor and City Council Member, effective immediately,” Stewart wrote in part. “It has been a true honor to serve this great City and its citizens. My love for Temecula and its residents is beyond expression.”
In a previous post, Stewart wrote that he frequently uses speech-to-text for his emails because of dyslexia. But he asserted that an error occurred in the email that drew backlash.
“Unfortunately I did not take the time to proofread what was recorded,” Stewart wrote on Facebook. “I absolutely did not say that. What I said is and [sic] I don’t believe there has ever been a person of color murdered by police, on context to Temecula or Riverside County. I absolutely did not say ‘good’ I have no idea how that popped up.”
Some respondents on Facebook expressed a willingness to excuse the mayor, but others were less willing to forgive the mayor, the Valley News reported.
“Why are you using voice-to-talk commands for a conversation of this magnitude?” one commenter asked.
Another called the mayor’s email “abhorrent.”
Reached by the newspaper Thursday, Stewart said he was frustrated that the situation blew up into a controversy.
“It’s really sad that somebody who has no history of racism can be labelled a racist with one misquote,” Stewart said. “So that’s really kind of my whole thing. Everybody’s labelled me as a racist, when I have no history of this.”