Four McCurtain County officials are being asked to resign by the governor of Oklahoma after they were allegedly caught on tape making racist comments about lynching Black people and discussing the murder of journalists.
Over the weekend, The McCurtain Gazette-News published audio that it claimed was captured after a Board of Commissioners meeting on March 6.
The McCurtain County Sheriff’s Office claimed in a statement that the audio of the meeting was illegally recorded and is currently conducting an investigation, despite the paper’s claim that it was legally obtained.
The sheriff’s office added that they think the recording was tampered with. “I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said in a statement Sunday.
“There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office. I will not stand idly by while this takes place,” the statement said.
The sheriff of McCurtain County, Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix were all requested to retire immediately by the governor.
He added that he will request that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation investigate the incident. McCurtain County is located in southeast Oklahoma, around 200 miles from Oklahoma City.
The recording was made just hours after Gazette-News reporter Chris Willingham sued the sheriff’s department, Manning, and the Board of County Commissioners, claiming they had slandered him and violated his civil rights, according to the newspaper.
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The Oklahoman claimed, citing additional reporting from the Gazette-News, that Manning mentioned needing to go close to the newspaper’s office and voiced worry about what might happen if she bumped into Willingham.
According to the Oklahoman report, Jennings said, “Oh, you’re talking about you can’t control yourself?” and Manning replied:
“Yeah, I ain’t worried about what he’s gonna do to me. I’m worried about what I might do to him. My papaw would have whipped his a**, wiped him and used him for toilet paper … if my daddy hadn’t been run over by a vehicle, he would have been down there.”
Jennings replied that his father was once upset by something the newspaper published and “started to go down there and just kill him,” according to the Gazette-News. “I know where two big, deep holes are here if you ever need them,” Jennings allegedly said. Clardy, the sheriff, allegedly said he had the equipment.
“I’ve got an excavator,” Clardy is accused of saying during the discussion. “Well, these are already pre-dug,” Jennings allegedly said.
According to the newspaper, officials voiced disappointment in other video segments that Black individuals could no longer be lynched.
CNN has not been able to authenticate either the integrity of the recording or the specifics of what was said. CNN has contacted all four county officials for comment.
According to the organization’s executive director, the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association decided on Tuesday to suspend the membership of Clardy, Manning, and Hendrix.
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