NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. (WHTM) — The mayor of New Cumberland is defending himself over posts he’s made online that some consider to be racist and unbecoming of a public official.
A Facebook group for the borough has spurred dozens of posts and hundreds of comments in response.
New Cumberland Mayor Doug Morrow liked a June 25 post on Facebook that asked in so many words, ‘what’s wrong with also saying that white lives matter?’
Morrow said he has always respected all of his citizens, but some of them tell ABC 27, he’s out of touch.
“This is my town too, I have a place here just as much as anybody else does,” said Elias Clayton. “Say you’re a 20-year-old black kid and you see the mayor of your town supporting the Confederate flag, which holds a racist history no doubt about it… How would that make you feel?”
Clayton is referring to Morrow’s defense of the Confederate flag online. In one post he said banning it, “…does infringe on the First Amendment. Right or wrong, it is history…it is [a person’s] First Amendment right to fly whatever flag they want to. That’s what a public official does is guaranteed (sic) every citizen his or her to their Constitutional rights.”
Clayton feels that’s no position for a public official.
“You cannot tell me that the confederate flag does not stand for state’s rights to own slaves, that’s what it was,” Clayton said.
His and other citizens’ feelings made worse recently after Morrow liked a post in that Facebook group that questions why it isn’t okay to “put a note on people’s porches that white lives matter? – What is the difference,” it asks, between that and black lives matter?
“That’s just an insult and it’s dismissive about what these people are going through,” said James Howie. “I came from a racist upbringing.”
Howie said he’s meeting the moment and is calling for more voices like his — older white men — to have empathy and to speak up against injustices when they see them.
“When I started going out into the world, I realized how narrow my upbringing had been,” he said. “I’ve spent the rest of my life peeling those layers of racism off of me.”
Morrow wasn’t up for a formal interview, as he is recovering from a serious illness. He did say emphatically over the phone that he is not a racist.
He sent a statement to ABC 27, saying he represents and treats everyone in town equally. The statement reads, in his words:
“I have spent the last few decades in public service. During this time I have always brought people together from different backgrounds to get things done for the community. I haven’t always been politically correct but I’ve never meant to offend anyone. As for the confederate flag, I am a constitutionalist and I believe strongly in the first amendment, the right of freedom of speech. Which encompasses the flag. I believe everybody’s protected under the constitution to wave whatever flag they want to wave. Since I entered public service in 1996 I’ve always represented all of my citizens. And I will continue to do so till I leave office.“
“When expressing yourself is putting an entire race under your boot, I don’t think you should be allowed to do that,” Clayton said.
ABC 27 heard from several New Cumberland residents as this story was being produced Thursday; one person defended Morrow, saying he has very few actual critics and that the backlash online is being driven by a certain group.
“There are a few young women who are stirring the pot, along with one 30-ish guy who gets these girls riled up about issues that don’t exist. Everyone says there is a problem in New Cumberland, but no one has any specifics. These people make accusation after accusation, with no evidence, no witnesses to back it up. All this group of people do is protest. They don’t actually take action to make anything better. They yell at people both in person and on social media. If you have a counter argument, they call you racist. Please take what they say with a grain of salt. For some reason they are out to get the Mayor of New Cumberland. They are obsessed with where he is and what he is doing. The man just went through a major health crisis and they think he should be jumping through hoops to make them happy. When healthy, Mayor Morrow, when he’s not working his job, he’s working for New Cumberland to make it a better place to live. Sure, there are problems here, but not what these folks are making it out to be.” — Kan Young