Virginia mayor apologizes for calling Kamala Harris ‘Aunt Jemima’

A Virginia mayor has apologized for saying Joe Biden “just announced Aunt Jemima” as his running mate, saying he now understands his words were hurtful and inappropriate.

Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves, 77, said he was sorry at a town council meeting on Monday for the Aug. 2 Facebook post that was later removed — but not before a council member, town officials and residents in the community called for the three-term mayor to step down.

“I understand what I posted on social media was wrong, offensive and unbecoming,” Presgraves said during the meeting, WTOP reports. “I also want to make a direct apology to all people of color and women. Passing of demeaning and worn-out racial stereotypes as humor isn’t funny.”

Presgraves, who is not seeking reelection, continued: “I now fully understand how hurtful it is.”

Biden announced Tuesday that he selected California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate after pledging to select a woman for his ticket. Several other black women were also reportedly on his shortlist, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Florida Rep. Val Demings, California Rep. Karen Bass and Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s national security adviser.

Presgraves, who rebuffed earlier calls to step down, promised Monday that he “can and will do better” at the town meeting, during which at least one resident in the town of 4,800 — 90 percent of whom are white — defended the mayor’s comment while claiming calls for his resignation were politically motivated, WTOP reports.

“From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry and humbly ask for your forgiveness and your grace,” Presgraves said.

But the mea culpa didn’t stop the Luray Town Council from voting to censure Presgraves for the “harmful words” he shared on social media.

“Your apology is a step towards reconciliation with our citizens, however, damage both internal and external to our community still remains,” the censure reads.

Councilmember Leah Pence, who previously called for Presgraves to resign, was the sole vote against the measure, saying it was “not strong enough,” WTOP reports.

“I believe that the council should have recommended that he resign,” Pence told the station Tuesday.

In 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam refused to step down after a photo showed a person in blackface and another wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit appeared on 1984 medical school yearbook page.

Northam, a Democrat, initially apologized for the photo before denying he was either individual. He did admit, however, darkening his face to look like Michael Jackson for a dance contest in 1984.

An independent probe later “could not conclusively determine” that the governor wore blackface, according to reports.

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