Barry Presgraves, the mayor of Luray, a Shenandoah Valley town some 60 miles north of Charlottesville, said he thought his comment — reportedly “Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick” ― was “funny,” per multiple media outlets.
“Hell no, I’m not resigning,” Presgraves told Page Valley News. “The people elected me and I have a few months more to serve.”
“I had no idea people would react the way they did,” the mayor added. “If I had a chance to do it over, I wouldn’t do it. You can apologize all you want, but no one will believe it.”
Presgraves did offer an apology of sorts on Facebook, reported WHSV, writing he was “sorry if I hurt anyone’s feelings lesson learned. It was not my intent to hurt anyone. I took it to be humorous. Sorry!”
Both posts have since become not visible on Facebook. Presgraves did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Quaker Oats’ announced in June it would change the name and logo of its “Aunt Jemima” brand of syrup and pancake mix, long criticized for racist stereotyping.
Biden has promised to pick a woman as his running mate in the 2020 election. Several women of color are reportedly under consideration for the role. Biden is expected to announce his choice next week.
Presgraves faced calls to resign from members of the town council.
“Barry — I am writing to strongly urge you to resign over a racist comment you made on Facebook,” Council Member Leah Pence wrote in an open letter shared on her Facebook page, below. “The comment you posted has a type of humor that (has) not been appropriate or funny in my lifetime or yours.”
“Barry does not speak for the council and does not speak for me,” Council Member Ron Vickers told WHSV.
Council Member Jerry Schiro told CNN that “all racial comments are inappropriate.”
“Given the heighten(ed) sensitivity to racism in our country today, they are particularly concerning and divisive when made by elected officials,” Schiro added in a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement that has gained traction since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
The Valley Region Caucus of the Virginia Young Democrats called Presgraves’ post “disgusting” and “unacceptable.”
The Town of Luray condemned racism and said it was “committed to working together with the community through understanding, compassion, and opportunity” in a statement posted on its website Monday.
The Town Council will “discuss the events leading to this statement at their August 10th meeting,” it added.