Heidi Dockery is a Maine artist & nature enthusiast with an affinity for libraries. She studies Criminal Justice with a special focus on psychology & sociology at the University of Maine. When not studying, painting, or re-reading the works of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, she volunteers & enjoys various nerdy activities. “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”
Wyoming Republican state Representative Cyrus Western (R-Sheridan) issued the standard apology after a tweet with racist connotations.
The (now deleted) tweet was Western's attempt at noting Albany County Sheriff Aaron Appelhans became Wyoming's first Black sheriff.
What was the tweet in question?
Western decided—rather than a simple tweet noting the historic moment or sharing congratulations—to post a GIF from Mel Brooks' Western satire film Blazing Saddles depicting actor Cleavon Little—who played sheriff Bart—asking "Where the White women at?" in a scene depicting him luring members of the KKK into a trap.
The connotation from the film played off White supremacist propaganda and rhetoric that claimed Black men were a danger to the virtue of White women. The perpetuation of the rhetoric led to the murders of many Black males like Emmett Till.
After a slew of criticism Western deleted the tweet and posted an apology—per usual including a defense any harm was unintended—on the platform.
"I'd like to issue a retraction. My remark about the new Albany Sheriff was dumb and uncalled for."
"What I did was insensitive, and, while unintended, I recognize that it was wrong. I hope he accepts my apology."
What I did was insensitive, and, while unintended, I recognize that it was wrong. I hope he accepts my apology.
— Cyrus Western (@CyrusWestern) December 16, 2020
In an interview with The Casper Star-Tribune Western said:
"It was stupid, and I wasn't really thinking. It was a reference to an old comedy satire movie where an African American sheriff moves to a Western town and breaks down norms."
"That was the sentiment, there was never any kind of malice or anything, and it was only afterwards I realized that it was really dumb."
However there are other scenes in the film which better exemplify Western's claimed intent.
Sheriff Appelhans confirmed to the Casper Star-Tribune on Wednesday Western called him to apologize for the choice of GIF.
Appelhans said of his conversation with the Representative:
"We definitely had a conversation about—how do I say it—his tweet and the connotations of it as well, racist connotations."
"He was apologetic and we had a conversation about being a politician and making sure you're representing the people who elected you to office. Just on a broader scale, knowing he represents a portion of the state, he also represents the state as well."
Regardless of the expressed ignorance by Western, after speaking with him Appelhans stated (he) "definitely knows what he did was wrong."
"And there's a potential for us to cross paths with both of our positions and law enforcement working on some of the bills that are gonna be in the state Legislature,"
"I basically told him I have expectations for him and I'm looking forward to him meeting those expectations and be better."
Twitter users weren't buying the reactive apology.
The only reason Cyrus Western is apologizing is because this will harm his career otherwise he would stand by his comments.
He doesn't serve the people, he serves himself, he doesn't deserve his position.
— Lloyd Watson (@LloydWatson714) December 17, 2020
This abhorrent tweet harkens back to Jim Crow, KKK nightriders and the death of Emmett Till and countless black men. No apology is good enough. Cyrus Western should be removed from office. This is what he believes or he would not have tweeted it.
— feathersong (@feathersong) December 18, 2020
Apology means nothing already said can't take it back🤠🇺🇸🤠
— ARP (@awyofan_alan) December 17, 2020
The line was funny in the movie because the black sheriff was trying to get a reaction from the ku klux klan... who were you trying to get a reaction from Cyrus?
— Mark Cody (@MarkCody) December 18, 2020
@GOP and Racism go together like peanut butter and jelly! HOW SAD! TRUMP HAS REVIVED HATE AS A POLITICAL WEAPON!
— RESIST THE GOLDEN TOILET EFFECT (@wck461) December 17, 2020
If there was real accountability - he would have to resign. Imagine feeling that it is OK to be a sitting rep, paid for citizens, and tweet this. Imagine what he says in private - or better yet, DON'T imagine what he says in private. Replace him. #CyrusWestern not a good person
— Grandmother Who Cares (@KimNoreen22) December 17, 2020
As a former LEO, I realize the sheriff “accepted “ your apology, because he wants to keep the peace . Do you think that is how he feels personally??
— downtownballroomgypsy (@downtownballro1) December 17, 2020
If you have kids and raise them with your moral compass they will be lost forever. The thought that was your first reaction to send that tweet is you screaming the quiet part out loud.
— @insl8rkcjoe (@insl8rkcjoe) December 17, 2020
There is no place for this type of hateful, unacceptable behavior. Wyoming people do not treat each other this way. Hate has no place in this State!
— Wendy Volk (@wendywyovolk) December 17, 2020
Translation: "My comment would have been tone-deaf even in 1980, and no apology will remove the fact that it was what was in my head."
You have much, much more work to do than apologize for one tweet.
— Jack Brand (@JackLBrand) December 17, 2020
Yes, “unintentional" racism referencing a black man in a comedy where the running gag was that he needed to outsmart the mob of whites or he'd be lynched... murdered for being black. This is what this public servant posted when a black guy was elected to public office. Resign.
— Ned Schneebly 🥶 (@noblesseobleezy) December 18, 2020
I respect the retraction, but the apology is easy. The question is will you rebuke those who make similar statements/gaffs? Only that will show if you learned something, or to put it more direct, if you actually cared.
— n8ms (@realn8Haynes) December 17, 2020
It is elected officials responsibility to serve and support their constituents equally. Hopefully Western learns from this experience and can better represent all of his state's citizens in the future.