A Haymarket town councilmember made a public apology Thursday after sending an email to fellow town councilmembers and town staff in which he referred to Gov. Ralph Northam by Northam’s racially offensive college nickname.
Haymarket Town Councilman Bob Weir acknowledged during Thursday’s town council meeting that he had used Northam’s alleged college nickname “Coonman” to refer to Northam in an email regarding Prince William County’s real property tax rate and declining commercial property values in the area.
In the email, Weir wrote that the county’s tax rate would increase the average tax bill for local homeowners, and that declining commercial property values would not offset the tax rate. Weir ended the email: “Thanks Covid and Gov. Coonman for depressing the commercial sector.”
Weir then privately apologized to councilmembers earlier this week before making a public apology Thursday evening.
“My intent was to express displeasure with the governor. However, I acknowledge that my intent is not what matters here and that the impact of my using that nickname was a very racially offensive message that reflects poorly on me and on the council,” Weir said.
Northam’s alleged college nickname, a Jim Crow-era racial slur, was discovered in 2019 after news reporters unearthed Northam’s 1981 Virginia Military Institute yearbook. Photos were also discovered on Northam's page in his 1984 medical school yearbook showing two people, one in a Ku Klux Klan robe and the other in blackface. Northam denied he was either person in the picture.
Haymarket Mayor Ken Luersen urged Weir to apologize publicly because, he said, “the matter has now become a matter of public concern.”
“While I believe that the councilmember did not mean to be racially offensive. The term was in fact racially offensive. As such, it has had a detrimental effect on the town council’s standing in the community and cannot be tolerated,” Luersen said.
Haymarket Town Councilman Steve Shannon called on Weir to resign over his use of the nickname in the email.
“I do not believe it was racist in nature. However, I am going on record to say I believe that with the press that this could get, I would personally recommend Mr. Weir’s resignation for the betterment of the town,” Shannon said.
Weir said in a phone call on Friday that he had no plans to resign from council.
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