An all-caps post appeared on Mark Chambers’s personal Facebook page last week that was reportedly critical of gay people, transgender people, abortion rights advocates and socialists. When a friend commented that a “revolution” was needed for change, Chambers wrote back that “with out killing them out there’s no way to fix it.”
Chambers would later claim he thought that response was a private message. But as the mayor of Carbon Hill, Ala., a city of about 2,000 people roughly 60 miles northwest of Birmingham, learned this week, his words reached a far wider audience than originally intended.
The exchange has since sparked widespread backlash from many who accused the mayor of “inciting violence.” On Tuesday, Chambers issued a lengthy apology expressing “regret” for his comment, but he argued that his sentiments — which many interpreted as a direct call to kill LGBTQ people — had been “taken out of context.”
“I and I alone am responsible for the comment that was made,” Chambers wrote in a Facebook post, adding that though he “was not targeting the LGBTQ community, I know that it was wrong to say anyone should be kill.”
He continued: “I am truly sorry that I have embarrassed our City, I love this City and while in office I have done everything in my power to make this a better place for our families.”
Chambers and the city of Carbon Hill could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
According to WBRC, Chambers’s troubles appeared to start Friday, one day before the beginning of Pride Month, when he shared a Facebook post that read in all-caps, “We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics.” (The post has since been deleted and Chambers’s profile can no longer be viewed.)
That post caught the attention of one of Chambers’s Facebook friends, whose name was redacted from images published by WBRC.
“By giving the minority more rights than the majority,” the commenter wrote. “I hate to think of the country my grandkids will live in unless somehow we change and I think that will take a revolution.”
In response, Chambers wrote, “the only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but with out killing them out there’s no way to fix it.”
When reached by WBRC on Monday, Chambers initially denied writing the comment.
“I don’t think I posted that,” he told the news station over the phone. “I think that’s somebody else’s post.”
A short while later, he called back and changed his story, WBRC reported. The post was his, Chambers said, but it had been taken out of context. Chambers added that the comment should have been a private message and not shared publicly, according to WBRC.
Chambers went on to tell WBRC that he “never said anything about killing out gays or anything like that.” He said his comment was specifically referring to what would happen “in a revolution.”
“If it comes to a revolution in this country, a war in this country, both sides of these people will be killed out,” he said.
Critics, however, felt Chambers’s comments targeted members of the LGBTQ community. Social media, including the Facebook page for the city of Carbon Hill, was flooded with angry commenters slamming Chambers and calling for his resignation.
“A town with such bigoted mayor can’t be a place any reasonable, intelligent person would want to visit,” one person wrote on Facebook.
Another person opined that what Chambers said “was the worst kind of social irresponsibility a person in his position could have uttered.”
“If any harm comes to any member of the LBGTQ community of Alabama because of his careless and cruel comments he should be held fully responsible and brought up on charges,” the person wrote.
On Twitter, one user had a proposal for Chambers.
“Come have dinner with me & my LGBTQ family,” the man wrote. “I won’t ask about your Facebook post. I do ask that you come with an open mind. At the end of the night, look me in the eye and tell me if you still wish me dead.”
The mayor’s Facebook comment also caught the attention of national LGBTQ advocacy groups.
On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign issued a scathing rebuke of Chambers, decrying his actions as “horrifying, unconscionable and unacceptable.”
“We can and should expect our elected officials to represent all of us, or at the bare minimum, to protect us,” the civil rights organization wrote on Facebook. “Despite his subsequent apology, this is wholly inappropriate behavior, and Mayor Chambers must be held to account.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality tweeted asking whether Chambers knew that Dana Martin, the first known transgender woman killed this year, was found near Montgomery, Ala.
But amid the outcry, some did come to Chambers’s defense, arguing that the mayor had the right to express his opinion, AL.com reported. Others praised him for, as one person put it, being “man enough to apologize.”
Speaking to WBRC on Tuesday, Carbon Hill council member the Rev. Clarence Colbert called Chambers a “great man” and a “good leader.” Chambers, who was raised in Carbon Hill, said in his official biography that he “decided to get involved in our city because it was not going in a positive direction.” The father of three, who previously served as a council member, has been mayor since 2014.
“He’s on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Colbert said in a video shared on Twitter. “You can call him any time of the day or night.”
In an interview published Wednesday in the Daily Mountain Eagle, the mayor repeatedly acknowledged that what he said was “wrong” but continued to defend himself.
“I mean, no where in there did I say I was for killing gays or killing transvestites or that sort of thing,” he said. “I was responding to a comment a guy said something about a revolutionary war. What I had said was in a war, you know, the only way to get your way is to kill the other side out.”
Chambers told the Mountain Eagle that he had no idea his comment would have the effect that it did.
“I can’t tell you why I said that,” he said. “It was just something dumb and stupid that I said. . . . I don’t believe anyone should be killed for anything that they believe in.”
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