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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is calling on several local officials to resign after they were caught on audio purportedly discussing plans to kill a journalist and reminiscing on the days when black people were lynched.
Over the weekend, the McCurtain Gazette-News disclosed a secret recording that caught multiple McCurtain County officials comparing a charred human body to barbecue, praising the time in history when black people were lynched, and apparently discussing hit men and killing Chris Willingham, a reporter for the Gazette-News.
The voices on the captured audio include McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, Commissioner Mark Jennings, sheriff's investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix.
Audio reportedly reveals McCurtain County sheriff, commissioner discussing plans to kill reporterwww.youtube.com
A transcript of the conversation shows Clardy, Jennings, and Manning discussing Willingham. Jennings tells Manning that he knows "where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them," while Clardy assures Manning that he has an excavator. Jennings then says he knows "two or three hit men" who "would cut no f***ing mercy."
In another portion of audio, Jennings says he would run for sheriff if he could act like Alan Marston — who served as McCurtain County sheriff in the 1980s — because allegedly Marston "would take a damn black guy and whoop their ass and throw him in the cell. ... Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can’t do that any more. They got more rights than we got."
The audio was recorded without the group's knowledge. It was captured on the same day that Willingham filed a defamation lawsuit against the sheriff's office, the Board of County Commissioners, and Manning, according to the Oklahoman.
Bruce Willingham, the father of Chris Willingham and the person responsible for the recording, told KWTV-DT that is he not sure how the officials could have been joking.
"I can see where they might try to [spin] that as being a joke, that part, but then Alicia comes back later on and starts talking about my daughter-in-law, and she starts getting worried about who would get the blame. I don't see how you spin that as a joke," Willingham said.
What did Stitt say?
He called on Clardy, Jennings, Manning, and Hendrix to resign immediately.
"I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County," he said in a statement. "There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office. I will not stand idly by while this takes place."
Stitt also said he has referred the matter to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The FBI is also reportedly investigating.
The officials involved in the scandal are not publicly responding.
But the McCurtain County Sheriffs Office released a statement on Monday indicating that the sheriff is going on the offensive.
The statement said the audio was "illegally obtained" because none of the involved parties had provided consent, which is required by Oklahoma law, and that county investigators are seeking to file felony charges against the person who captured the recording. The statement also claimed the audio had been "altered," but did not say how.
And while the statement claims the transcription does not exactly match the audio (and it does not explain how the sheriff's office would know that), the statement does directly deny the allegations.
McCurtain County community, Idabel mayor demand resignations of county officialswww.youtube.com
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News