Arkansas city official repeatedly misspells black resident’s name as ‘Cooningham’
An Arkansas city official refuses to step down after repeatedly – and possibly intentionally – misspelling a black resident’s name in a Facebook argument to include a racial slur.
The Pine Bluff City Council passed a no-confidence vote 7-0 Monday night against Alderman Bill Brumett and asked the absent elected official to resign.
“I’ve apologized to everybody and it doesn’t seem like anybody wants to say that’s enough and let’s move on,” said Brumett, the only white member of City Council.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside City Hall hours before the meeting to call for Brumett’s resignation, saying they would organize a recall effort if he didn’t step down on his own.
Brumett, who is white, admitted that he became angry with Pine Bluff native J.C. Cunningham, who is black, during a public-access Facebook forum.
The city official said he purposefully misspelled Cunningham’s name out of frustration and typed “Cooningham” – although he claims he meant to type “Cuuningham.”
Brumett said in a written statement that he did not mean to use the racial slur, saying he was initially aware that Cunningham was black, and he apologized to Cunningham on the Facebook forum and then sent a separate message of apology.
“He stated that it was a mistyping on the computer, but those letters are nowhere near each other,” said Councilman George Stepps, who said this wasn’t the first time Brumett had done something like this since his 1996 election.
Brumett is not without supporters in the 50,000-person central Arkansas city, where 70 percent of residents are black. A Facebook group, “I Stand With Bill Brumett,” attracted more than 1,000 members within 24 hours.
“I started this page to show Mr. Bill that he is not alone, that we all stand beside and behind him,” said the group’s administrator. “Let us all pray that this mess blows over and Mr. Bill can continue to make positive things happen for his beloved city! #ISTANDBEHINDBILL”
Former Alderman Jack Foster, who organized the protest that continued through the City Council meeting, said Brumett must “take his lumps” because he is a “bigot who wants to see white supremacy continue in Pine Bluff.”
Cunningham issued a written statement saying that he had not accepted Brumett’s apology — and did not intend to do so.
“I cannot imagine sitting at a computer and typing a form of someone’s last name and using a racial slur without realizing it,” Cunningham said in the statement. “The insertion of such words would be automatically clear to me. Mr. Brumett should have been keenly aware that more than a misspelling had occurred in his sentence.”
Watch this video report posted online by KTHV-TV: