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Virginia Board of Education member resigns after vulgar tweets surface

Wes Bellamy, who has stepped down from the Virginia Board of Education. (Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Education.)
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A Virginia Board of Education member has stepped down after a series of his tweets from several years ago surfaced, including public messages that had gay slurs, references to sexual assault and anti-white comments.

Wes Bellamy, 30, a high school computer science teacher and a Charlottesville city councilman, was appointed to the state board of education by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in March. Brian Coy, McAuliffe’s spokesman, said Wednesday morning that “the governor was horrified by what was reported as having appeared on Mr. Bellamy’s Twitter feed.”

Later Wednesday, Coy released a statement from Bellamy in which he said he is stepping down. Bellamy said he wants “to redirect my attention and focus to my family, the children and young people whom I serve, and to the City of Charlottesville.”

Bellamy did not respond to requests for comment.

The governor appoints all nine members of the state board, which helps set education policy for the state, including designing statewide curriculum and establishing high school graduation requirements. Bellamy, a Democrat, was elected to the Charlottesville City Council in 2015 and was selected as Vice-Mayor. He also is the founder of the nonprofit Helping Young People Evolve, a mentoring program for young people in the city.

Charlottesville-based blogger Jason Kessler, an author, unearthed the tweets and published them in an entry on Nov. 24, calling Bellamy “a blatant black supremacist.” He also criticized Bellamy’s campaign to get a statute of Confederate general Robert E. Lee removed from a local park, terming it an effort to “attack white history.”

“In lieu of making headlines for planning Charlottesville highway development, infrastructure and water conservation like other members of city council, it seems that Bellamy has dedicated himself almost exclusively to his Afrocentric racial agenda,” Kessler wrote.

Kessler posted images of the tweets from Bellamy’s account, which has been made private in recent days. Bellamy joined the social media site in April 2009 and has sent out 123,000 tweets; he has about 3,800 followers. 

In one tweet from October 2009, Bellamy used a vulgar term to describe a woman and accused women in general of being untruthful about their sexual histories. In a tweet from the same year, he wrote: “I DONT LIKE WHIT PEOPLE SO I HATE WHITE SNOW!!!!!”

The Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Virginia, followed up on Kessler’s findings, and found more offensive tweets from Bellamy’s account. In one, from October 2011, Bellamy retweeted a description of performing a sex act on a sleeping woman and the comment that “if she moan it aint rape.” “Word,” he said in response to the comment. He retweeted another message in January 2012 that included a gay slur.

Earlier that year, he retweeted a message from another user saying: “this weekend I’ll be on a whitegirl diet.” He shared the message, then added “a rape charge waiting to happen,” according to the Cavalier Daily. In another tweet, according to the Daily, he wrote that white women “smell like future assault charges n deli meat.”

In another tweet from 2011, he wrote “I really tune out when white people talk in community meetings. I really need to work on that.”

Bellamy, who is African American, also called white women “the devil” and said he did not like seeing white people in Orangeburg, S.C., according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Bellamy attended South Carolina State University there, a historically black school.

Kessler said the tweets show Bellamy’s “deep-seeded racial animus towards white people,” and the messages, particularly the one in which he says he tunes out white people at community meetings, shows that he is unfit to serve on the city council.

“That is really disqualifying for someone who is on city council and represents white people,” Kessler said.

Bellamy addressed the controversy Sunday night on his Facebook page, apologizing for the posts and calling them “disrespectful, and quite frankly, ignorant.” He attributed them to immaturity and inexperience.

“At the time of the tweets that I saw posted on the website, I was a young man in my early 20s living outside the Deep South for the first time. In the course of trying to mature and find my way I came to some false conclusions about the world around me and made them known,” he wrote. “I sincerely apologize for the inappropriate things I posted to social media many years ago. Elected officials should be held to a higher standard, and while I was not in office at the time, in this instance I came up short of the man I aspire to be.”

Responding to Kessler’s accusations, Bellamy wrote: “Contrary to what was written, I am not a black supremacist, a racist, a misogynist.”

The Cavalier Daily included more recent tweets in its report, showing that his messages on social media had grown more professional and less divisive. He called for racial unity on Nov. 25, adding “let’s work together make this better for all!”

His feed also includes his opinions on more benign matters. In 2014, his tweet about the McDonald’s McRib sandwich, in which he shared a photo of a unappetizing slab of meat, caught the attention of the company. As part of a campaign for its McRib sandwich, McDonald’s flew him to Oklahoma City to visit the fast food chain’s pork processing plants.

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Phil Giaramita, spokesman for the Albemarle County school system, said Bellamy was placed on administrative leave this week while officials investigate whether the tweets violated district policy or whether Bellamy made the remarks while he was employed in the district. Giaramita said Bellamy was a substitute teacher in 2011; he was hired full-time at Albemarle High School in August 2012.

Kate Acuff, chair of the Albemarle County School Board, said the board found the tweets “to be vulgar, broadly offensive and highly unrepresentative of our school division’s values.”

Bellamy continues to hold his post as a city council member, but Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer said in a statement that Bellamy should consider whether it is appropriate for him to stay in office or remain as vice mayor. He said that “in a time when we so urgently need unity, tolerance, and love” such communications “have done real harm to our community.”

“I believe Mr. Bellamy must seriously consider how and whether, in his present role as vice mayor and as a city councilor, he can best serve the common good of Charlottesville,” Signer said.

This story has been updated to clarify a quote from Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer.