Loudoun Treasurer H. Roger Zurn held a press conference in Leesburg on Thursday to apologize publicly for a Facebook post in which he made an “Uncle Tom” joke, but said he will not be acceding to demands that he resign.
“I want to be clear that it was never my intent to be offensive or racially insensitive, particularly in this current national climate where we are all looking to find ways to come together as citizens, and as brothers and sisters,” Zurn said. “But, when you make a mistake, as I did, you need to come clean, admit it, and apologize without reservation. I would like to do that here and now.”
But in the face of calls from the Loudoun NAACP, at least one county supervisor and others to resign his office, Zurn said he will not be stepping down.
“Leaders do not run from their mistakes, they grow from them,” Zurn said. “I have always conducted myself, in my public office with honor, integrity and respect.”
He said he scheduling a meeting with the NAACP next week.
Pressed on whether he would discourage the Loudoun County Republican Party, of which he is a member, from using the incident for fundraising, Zurn at first hesitated.
“I have no control over what the party does,” Zurn said. “I am but myself, and I control what I do. I just simply cannot tell other people what to do, just as I’m sure the Democrats have been doing the same thing.”
Pressed further, Zurn said “I would discourage Republicans from using this incident for fundraising just as I would ask that the Democrats not use this same incident for fundraising.”
Zurn posted “Wondering if Aunt Jemima will change to Uncle Tom’s?” the evening of Wednesday, June 17 before deleting the post minutes later and later apologizing on Facebook.
He said after that post, he had a conversation with one of his chief deputies, a Black woman.
“Her words were, she knows me as a person, she knows me as the treasurer, but those words hurt her deeply,” Zurn said. “And that really hit home, along with comments by others as well, and it made me realize just how badly it impacted people.”
Zurn also spoke of his experience growing up in Baltimore City with a single mother.
“The various housing we lived in was always in poor African American neighborhoods,” Zurn sai. “The public schools I attended were 80 to 90 percent African American. So, it grieves me deeply to think I caused pain to a community that I know so well, and have been engaged with my entire life.”
He also said he had “learned the dangerous power of social media.”