Councilman William McKoy took to social media on Friday to clarify his controversial remark about civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. made on the 50th anniversary of his assassination that was condemned by the head of the Paterson NAACP.
“If anyone took exception to me invoking the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in my comments, it was never my intent to offend,” said McKoy in a recorded video statement. “The fact of the matter is political operatives in support of Sayegh are using my remark to boost their political agenda.”
McKoy criticized the absence of councilman Andre Sayegh, one of six-man running for mayor, from the candidates’ forum held at the Christopher Hope Center on Wednesday night. Sayegh, who is white, missed the forum to attend an observance remembering the civil rights leader. McKoy mentioned King’s name as a reference to Sayegh’s decision to skip the forum to attend the observance.
“You want to tell me you are more concerned about Dr. Martin Luther King assassination? Well, Martin Luther King Jr. is dead. We’re alive and we’re here,” said McKoy, who is black, on Wednesday night.
Kenneth Clayton, president of the Paterson chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called the comment “absolutely disgusting.” He suggested the longtime councilman issue an apology for making the statement.
McKoy’s video statement is being viewed by some as an apology. “To those who were offended by my remarks, please know this was never my intention,” McKoy reiterated in the video statement.
McKoy’s supporters went on the offensive attacking Clayton. Activists Ernest Rucker and former school board member Corey Teague criticized Clayton stating he has not done enough to stand up for the African-American community.
Rucker wrote Clayton was taking commands from his “master” Rep. Bill Pascrell and the Passaic County Democratic Party.
Teague claimed other pastors moved out of the way when shots were fired by a sniper that claimed King’s life.
The attacks on Clayton and McKoy’s remark deeply offended prominent attorney Kenyatta Stewart. This prompted the scheduling of a rally called “King is not dead” at St. Luke’s Baptist Church for Saturday afternoon. However, on Saturday morning, leaders and ministers from the African-American community met to discuss the situation.
The rally was cancelled.
Stewart said McKoy’s side agreed to issue a public apology as a result of the meeting.
“I’m not going to stand for anyone making any comment of that nature,” said Stewart, referring to the comments made by Rucker against Clayton.
“I was out of line,” said Rucker on Saturday afternoon apologizing for his remarks. He has taken down his inflammatory comments that suggested Clayton was in bondage.
“I didn’t say anything wrong,” said Teague when asked if he planned to issue an apology.
When asked if McKoy planned to issue a straight apology, Rucker said, “He already did what he had to do.”
Stewart said McKoy’s remark was a “bad delivery,” but he made the statement and has to live with it.
“If a white man did it City Hall would be on fire,” said Stewart. “I’m not going to put up with a black man doing it either.”
McKoy, who championed a no confidence measure against former councilman Julio Tavarez for making racially divisive remarks three years ago, found himself in an odd position when his remark was condemned.
McKoy was attending a funeral service and was unavailable for comments on Saturday morning.
“The reason why people who look like us have the right to vote is because of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said Stewart. “King’s dream will never die. When people vote at the polls on May 8th that’s King’s dream.”