Luray, Virginia Mayor Barry Presgraves is being asked to resign after he posted on Facebook that former Vice President Joe Biden picked "Aunt Jemima" as his running mate earlier this month before Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his pick for vice president. The Luray Town Council and residents denounced the post, which Presgraves deleted the same weekend he published it. Presgraves apologized for the comment during a town council meeting Monday.
"I want to make this very clear to everyone with absolutely no qualifications," Presgraves said Monday, reports NBC News. "I understand what I posted on social media was wrong, offensive and unbecoming." The 77-year-old mayor also sent a "direct apology" to "people of color and women," adding that "Passing off demeaning and worn out racial stereotypes as humor isn't funny." The mayor said he "fully" understands how "hurtful it is and I can and will do better and we can all do better. We must," and said the comments dod not "reflect what was in my heart." At the end of his speech, Presgraves asked for residents to accept his apology.
Presgraves shared a meme on Facebook that said Biden "just announced Aunt Jemima" as his running mate. In an interview before his apology, Presgraves said he thought it was "humorous" and said he would not resign. "I had no idea people would react the way they did. I think people have gone overboard on this… It's an election year," he told the Page Valley News on Aug. 3. "Hell no, I'm not resigning," he added. "The people elected me and I have a few months more to serve."
After his apology on Monday, the town council voted to censure Presgraves but did not call for his resignation. One town council member, Leah Pence, voted against censure because she believed Presgraves should be called to resign. "The wording of the censure was not strong enough — we must name our biases before we can address them," she told WTOP. "I believe that the council should have recommended that he resign."
During the meeting, Barbara Veney, 69, addressed Presgraves directly during Monday's meeting, asking him to step down. "We need somebody with positive thinking that will shape this community. No more dividing," she said. "In order for us to move on ... I'm asking you today, Mr. Mayor that you step down in love — because I love you — and do the right thing."