OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma residents, and the state’s governor, are calling for three McCurtain County officials to resign after they were allegedly heard discussing the potential murder of two journalists and the hanging of Black people in an audio recording.
Overheard in the recording, which was from a March county commissioner meeting, are County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, County Commissioner Mark Jennings and county sheriff employee Alicia Manning, according to the McCurtain Gazette.
The Gazette first reported on the recording over the weekend, saying its employees, father and son duo Bruce and Chris Willingham, are the ones being threatened in the tapes.
According to the outlet, Jennings can be heard in the transcript saying, “If this was back in the day when Alan Marston would take a damned Black guy and whoop their a– and throw them in the cell, I would run for f—- sheriff.”
Jennings is, presumably, referring to McCurtain County Sheriff Alan Marston, who served in the role during the 1980s.
“It’s not like that no more,” Clardy reportedly responded to Jennings.
“I know – take em down on Mud Creek and hang em up on a damn rope, but you can’t do that no more. They got more rights than we got,” concluded Jennings.
At one point, Jennings allegedly brags about knowing “hit men.”
“I’ve known two or three hitmen that are very quiet guys and would cut no f—— mercy, in Louisiana,” said Jennings.
According to the Gazette, the recording took place on March 6, the same day Chris Willingham filed a lawsuit against Clardy, the Board of Commissioners, and Manning for First Amendment violations.
“For nearly a year, they have suffered intimidation, ridicule and harassment based solely on their efforts to report the news for McCurtain County,” said Christin Jones, an attorney for the Willinghams. Jones shared a transcript of the recording, which does contain graphic language, with Nexstar’s KFOR.
Governor Kevin Stitt, who said he was “both appalled and disheartened to hear the horrid comments,” called for the officials to resign on Sunday. He has also requested an investigation into the situation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
A spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond told The Associated Press that the agency has received an audio recording and is investigating the incident. Bruce Willingham – who told the outlet he left a recorder in the meeting because he believed the group was conducting county business after the meeting ended, violating state law – said he also turned the recording over to the FBI.
Republican State Rep. Eddy Dempsey, who represents McCurtain County, also called for the officials to resign.
“It does not reflect how Southeast Oklahoma is,” he said. Dempsey described himself as “lifelong friends” with Clardy and Jennings but admits their comments deserve consequences. “It’s no hearsay, it’s no two words – I mean they were recorded so it should be a resignation.”
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There was an emergency commissioners meeting scheduled for Monday morning in McCurtain County.
Only the mayor of Idabel was in attendance.
A protest by McCurtain County residents on Monday called for the resignations of all involved.