New Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith has fiercely condemned a series of social media posts by Commissioner Mark Shull that made racist statements about Muslims, immigrants, transgender people and others.
“I acknowledge the harm and fear that our community members are experiencing as a result of the horrifying statements that were recently revealed from one of our commissioners,” Smith said in a statement Tuesday from Clackamas County.
Smith, who took her oath of office last week along with Shull, said she “in no way” condones or agrees with his “offensive” statements.
“They do not reflect my values,” she said. “Such statements are an attack on human dignity and have no place in government. Our role as commissioners is to serve residents, build trust and create a safe and thriving community for all residents. Bigoted statements by elected officials undermine that work and trust.”
Smith also referenced a resolution the county passed last summer condemning violence and racism against Blacks and all people of color.
Though she was not a member of the board at that time, she said she is “in full support of the resolution and of the work of the Equity and Inclusion Office and the value the office brings to our county employees and residents.”
“This resolution serves as a call to action for the county to address systemic disparities and ensure that all people can feel safe and thrive in our county,” Smith said.
Her statement followed a similar statement posted earlier Tuesday by the full Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, condemning Shull’s social media posts “that spread hatred, bigotry and lies about immigrants, Muslims, communities of color and other historically marginalized groups, as well as inflammatory disinformation during the September wildfires,” and calling them appalling.
But while Chair Smith’s statement stopped short of demanding Shull to step down from the post he’d assumed less than two weeks earlier, the Multnomah commissioners did not.
“This is conduct that betrays the trust of his constituents and undermines any claim that Commissioner Shull can make about serving his community fairly or effectively,” the board said. “We call on him to resign without delay.”
Words, even those posted on personal social media pages, have “immense power and influence,” Multnomah commissioners said.
“Less than a week ago, we saw in the nation’s capital what a pattern of inflammatory words on social media can incite,” their statement read. “And here at home, we saw the tensions and trauma that malicious disinformation sowed during the wildfires when evacuees were stopped and harassed by armed vigilantes. Words matter, and those who feed bigotry and discrimination must be held accountable.”
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