FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP/WDTV) — A West Virginia city councilman has refused calls to step down amid criticism of comments containing ethnic slurs that he posted to social media.
During a Fairmont City Council meeting Tuesday night, council member David Kennedy faced sharp criticism from community members. But he said residents voted him in and they would have to vote him out, news outlets reported.
The Times West Virginian reported that the backlash followed Kennedy's use of slurs against people from Asia and the Middle East on Facebook during a conversation about the U.S. bombing attack that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Kennedy has since removed the posts and made his Facebook page private, the newspaper reported.
After several members of the public spoke, council member Tom Mainella said he agreed with the crowd.
“I’d like to say one thing. If this much honor or dignity is left in your body, you should resign,” Mainella said.
Many who spoke received an applause of appreciation, but the biggest moment of the night was when resident Samantha Chadwell asked to approach Councilman Kennedy.
"I walked up to him, I held my hands out and I asked him to hold my hands and look me in the eye and call me the same things he did online. I thought if I approached him and looked him in the eye and asked him to do the same...ya know, that maybe he would get a sense of what he's saying."
Kennedy read from a prepared statement during the meeting, saying he took an oath in 1966 as a Marine to uphold the Constitution and protect the country from foreign and domestic enemies.
“At one time, those enemies were outside our borders. Now, they are beside us and their aim is to destroy liberty and freedom wherever they find it. Resigning this council seat would be giving up that fight for truth, justice and the American way. We cannot do that," he said.
Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield says the meeting was not something he will remember fondly, but is ready move forward towards the future of "the friendly city."
"It was just kind of a sad meeting for me, in the fact that we've got so many positive things going on and there's such energy and there's such great people in the city, but we obviously have a little work to do. So...ya know tomorrow's another day and we'll try to improve upon today and go forward."
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.