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Mayor Who Called VP Pick 'Aunt Jemima' Is Censured

Barry Presgraves of Luray, Va., faces calls to resign despite apology
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2020 10:18 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Virginia mayor is facing calls to resign over a Facebook post that claimed Joe Biden had selected "Aunt Jemima" as his running mate. Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves' shared the post two weeks ago when Biden’s shortlist included several Black women, including Florida Rep. Val Demings, California Rep. Karen Bass, Susan Rice, and, of course, California Sen. Kamala Harris. Presgraves, a Republican, initially said people had overreacted to the "humorous" post. But he sang a different tune at a Monday council meeting in Luray, whose population is 4% Black, per NBC News. "Passing off demeaning and worn out racial stereotypes as humor isn't funny," the 77-year-old said. It was "wrong, offensive and unbecoming" and "I can and will do better," he added, offering "a direct apology to all people of color and women."

Several residents called for Pregraves to resign, per Mediaite. "We need somebody with positive thinking that will shape this community. No more dividing," said 69-year-old Barbara Veney, per NBC. Council member Leah Pence had urged the mayor to resign a week earlier, claiming residents had lost confidence in his ability to "effectively and justly" serve as mayor. She was the lone dissenter in Monday's 5-1 council vote to censure Presgraves for "his choice of harmful words"; she chose not to join the majority because the statement didn't brand his post as racist or sexist, per Mediaite. NBC reports the council doesn't have the authority to remove the mayor, though residents can ask that of the courts. Presgraves previously said he would not resign. He is not seeking reelection in November. (Read more Virginia stories.)

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