Mayor James “Stew” Stewart announced his resignation Thursday on Facebook, telling his constituents and staff, “You have every right to be hurt and offended.”
“I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist,” he wrote in the post. “I deeply regret this mistake and I own it, entirely. I am truly sorry.”
The announcement came two days after a Temecula resident emailed Stewart requesting information about police violence against Black people in the area.
“I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer,” Stewart wrote in his response Tuesday, a screenshot of which was posted to Twitter and other social media platforms. “I have several good friends who are African-Americans, and they love living here because how safe it is for them and their families.”
Needless to say, the backlash to his remarks was instant.
“This is awful,” one person tweeted. “Hope that the people of Temecula vote for a better candidate the next election.”
“I guess only the ‘bad’ people of color are killed by the police. Whatever!” another person wrote.
Others pointed to Tyisha Miller, a 19-year-old Black woman who was killed by police in 1998 while sitting in her car at a gas station in Riverside, California, about 40 miles north of Temecula.
In a Facebook post before his resignation Thursday, Stewart denied making the remark as printed, blaming the wording on his use of voice-to-text technology.
“I am very well known for my dyslexia so I voice text everything,” he wrote. “Unfortunately I did not take the time to proofread what was recorded. I absolutely did not say that.”
Stewart told the Los Angeles Times on Friday that he hoped the controversy didn’t bring further attention to Temecula ahead of a local Black Lives Matter protest scheduled for that day.
“It was incredibly horrible timing, but at the same time, I need to protect the city too,” he said.