Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, is calling for several local officials’ resignations after they were recorded purportedly discussing plans of killing a journalist.
The McCurtain Gazette-News revealed a secret recording over the weekend that captured multiple McCurtain officials discussing hit men, killing Chris Willingham and praising a time in history where black people were lynched.
McCurtain county sheriff Kevin Clardy is heard on the audio, as are Commissioner Mark Jennings and sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning. Jail administrator Larry Hendrix also appears.
Clardy, Jennings and Manning are shown in a transcript of their conversation discussing Willingham. Clardy tells Manning he has a excavator, while Jennings assures Manning he knows where “two big deep holes” are. Jennings says that he knows two or three hitmen who would “cut no f***ing merci.”
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Jennings said in another part of the audio that he would be a sheriff if only he could behave like Alan Marston, who was McCurtain county sheriff during the 1980s. Marston allegedly “would take a black guy and whoop his ass and toss him in a cell.” Take them to Mud Creek, and hang them with a rope. You can’t do it anymore. “They have more rights than us.”
The audio was captured without the group’s consent. The audio was recorded on the day Willingham filed his defamation suit against the sheriff’s office, Board of County Commissioners and Manning.
Bruce Willingham, Chris Willingham’s father and the person who recorded the video, told KWTV DT that he was not sure if the officials were joking.
“I could see how they would try to [spin] it as a joke. But then Alicia returns later and begins talking about my daughter in law, and she becomes worried about who will get blamed. Willingham replied, “I don’t understand how that can be spun as a joke.”
What did Stitt have to say?
He demanded that Clardy and Jennings resign as soon as possible.
In a written statement, he said: “I’m both appalled by the horrible comments made by officials from McCurtain county,” and that he was also disheartened. “Such hateful language has no place in Oklahoma, particularly by those who represent their community through their office. I will not remain silent while this happens.
Stitt said that he had also referred the case to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. According to reports, the FBI is also investigating.
What else is there?
Officials involved in the scandal do not respond publicly.
McCurtain County Sheriffs Office issued a statement Monday, indicating that sheriff has gone on the offensive.
The statement claimed that the audio had been “illegally obtained,” because no one involved in the incident gave consent as required by Oklahoma law. County investigators were seeking to bring felony charges against whoever recorded the recording. The statement claimed that the audio was “altered”, but did not specify how.
The statement directly denies the allegations, even though it claims that the transcription did not match the audio exactly (and does not explain how sheriff’s offices would know this).