After some Lacey City Council members shared their displeasure with Jason Hearn about recent comments he made on Facebook that disparaged Muslims, the councilman apologized Thursday night, acknowledging that his comments had hurt people in the community.
“I got caught up in the talk at the time on Facebook — which I’m no longer on — and that hurt people,” he said. “To all those I hurt, I apologize.”
Hearn also said that he had recently visited the Islamic Center of Olympia, where he participated in what he called a “gracious, positive event in which food was provided.” He said the discussion that day “centered on the issue of community and the sense of community in the area.”
Last month The Olympian highlighted the comments Hearn had made on Facebook for a story on public officials in the age of social media.
On Nov. 15, Hearn posted the following on a friend’s Facebook page:
▪ (President Barack) Obama is Muslim or at least an avid Muslim sympathizer.
▪ Remember 15 percent of Muslims are radical with violent intentions.
▪ Obama is a Muslim sympathizer before he’s an American.
After The Olympian story was published, a number of people from Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater attended a city council meeting to criticize Hearn for his comments. Following the meeting, Hearn said he would reach out to the Muslim community.
Thursday night’s council meeting was set to end and head into executive session when council member Virgil Clarkson, one of the longest serving council members in city history, asked for permission to speak. Clarkson then read what he called an “open letter” to Hearn.
Clarkson said he was aghast at Hearn’s comments because so many of the council’s constituents are Muslim.
“I thought you were above the fray of common gossip, but evidently not,” Clarkson said. “I must publicly state that your behavior is a breach of your expected and entrusted leadership. Jason, I want you to know what a disappointment you have been to me.”
Mayor Ryder also read from some prepared remarks, emphasizing that “words matter.”
“It is with profound regret that the Muslim community, which is part of the greater Lacey community, has been disparaged,” Ryder said.
After Clarkson read his letter, Hearn turned to him and said that he was sad to have hurt him.
“I invite everybody and anybody to reach out to me to continue to communicate in any way we can,” Hearn said.