A council member in northern Texas is rejecting calls for his resignation over a series of anti-Muslim and anti-black Facebook posts, including one saying that President Donald Trump should ban Islam in U.S. schools.
Tom Harrison, a city council member in Plano, Texas, is accused of sharing a post from a Facebook page titled “Joined Hands Across America For Trump.” The meme, which showed a young girl wearing a hijab, read: “Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.”
The post sparked a public outcry, with Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere calling for Harrison’s removal from the council and the council voting Sunday to publicly admonish Harrison.
“Mr. Harrison’s conduct is unbefitting a council member to serve our diverse community. I find this Facebook post abhorrent and believe this is a stain on our city and does not represent who we are,” LaRosiliere said Monday afternoon in a statement to The Washington Post, saying that Harrison had refused to step down over the incident.
The council voted 7 to 1 to censure Harrison, which the mayor called “the only course of action available to the council.” He said that Harrison was the only dissenting vote.
The mayor said the city council had learned about several “equally offensive” posts from Harrison and called a special council meeting over the weekend to address them. One post reportedly read, “In the 19th century, all slave owners were Democrats. In the 21st century, all slave owners are Muslims. Their allies are the Democrats.”
Another showed a picture of President Lyndon B. Johnson and read: “Black children born without a father in the home rate pre LBJ’s ‘Great Society’ welfare system in 1964 = 7%. Black children born without a father in the home rate post LBJ’s ‘Great Society’ 2014 = 73%. Hey liberals, how’s your ‘Great Society’ working out for the black family?”
Amid the backlash, an apology was posted from Harrison’s Facebook page, according to ABC affiliate WFAA.
“I want to sincerely apologize to the Plano Muslim Community for the unintentional hurt I caused by reposting something on my personal Facebook page that wrongfully implied I am anti-Muslim. My intent on inputting this on my personal Facebook page was to emphasize that Christianity is not the only religion being targeted for exclusion in our public school. It was not meant as a personal attack against the Islamic faith. As a Christian, it is my belief that all should be free to worship as they choose, but we live in a time where any practice of religious expression in public schools is rarely tolerated. My hope is that due to the rightful negative response to my post, that it will spark a renewed discussion about all religions and their place in our public schools. My other regret is that my personal action has reflected poorly on the City of Plano. My action was personal in nature, but I should have remembered this past Monday night’s Council discussion . . .. none of us are ever truly off duty. None of us are perfect, and we will all be judged one day by the highest authority. Until then, I ask for forgiveness within the community and acceptance of my sincere apology.”
The post appears to have been removed.
During Sunday’s council meeting, Harrison said that although he had apologized, he would not resign.
“I want to assure the citizens of Plano, I am not xenophobic. I am not a bigot. I am not a racist. What I am is someone who was elected, told people I would do a job for everyone in Plano,” he said to a clashing chorus of boos and applause.
Harrison could not immediately be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
Plano, a Dallas suburb, is about 25 miles from Irving, a city that has been at the center of anti-Muslim controversies. Nearly 67 percent of Plano’s nearly 260,000 residents are white, according to census data. Nearly 8 percent are black, and nearly 17 percent are Asian.
Plano Mayor Pro Tem Rick Grady expressed sorrow for the community, saying he was “heartbroken.” “It is the love of this community and the citizens in this community that I continue to serve. And I serve all of you, not some,” he said Sunday during the council meeting.
“I have fought my entire life for this hatred to go away, for this stereotype to go away, for bigotry to go away, and it seems to continue,” Grady said. “This kind of intolerant behavior, this insensitivity for people, needs to cease. And to continue to perpetuate it and to say I could sit on a board of directors and feel that way and then stand out in public and say I don’t, doesn’t jive.”
After calling for Harrison’s resignation, LaRosiliere said he could forgive him “as a member of a citizen of Plano, but not as a Plano City Council member.”
Steve Stoler, a spokesman for the city, said some people said that they planned to start a recall petition to remove Harrison from office, though he said the city had yet to receive signatures.