Hoping to quell a controversy that has angered many locals and captured national attention on political Web sites, Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk has publicly apologized for forwarding an e-mail suggesting Barack Obama is the biblical Antichrist.
But Funderburk's apology didn't achieve its intended goal. Critics say the mayor still refuses to admit the e-mail contains lies about the Democratic presidential nominee that have been debunked by several mainstream news organizations.
Eight black pastors from Fort Mill signed a letter last week criticizing Funderburk for a "weak statement of regret" that only raises more questions about his beliefs and why he chose to forward the message.
"All good citizens of Fort Mill will be praying that our mayor will beseech God to grant him the holy common sense to never believe nor pass on an erroneous e-mail," the letter reads, "but rather be busy helping us all say, like the citizens of Rock Hill, 'There is no room for racism' in Fort Mill.'"
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Rock Hill adopted a "No Room for Racism" motto in the late 1990s.
Funderburk made the apology at the start of last Monday's Town Council meeting.
"In regards to recent media attention resulting from a political e-mail I was involved with, I want to state that I'm sorry I forwarded the e-mail," Funderburk said, according to a statement he provided to The Herald. "I'm sorry for the discomfort that the forwarding of the email caused my family, my friends and any Fort Mill citizens who were genuinely affected in any negative way by the forwarding of the e-mail."
Funderburk said earlier that he forwarded the e-mail to a small group of family and friends who had been talking about Obama's background. The e-mail found its way to Charlotte's WCNC-TV, which aired a story Sept. 28.
"I do have questions about Barack Obama and his political and religious leanings," Funderburk told the Fort Mill Times. He said he was "just curious" about the claims.
Funderburk, a Republican elected last year, said he was not trying to perpetuate rumors about Obama -- and that he never intended the message to go beyond the small group to whom he initially sent it.
In the apology, Funderburk says he did not send the e-mail from his office or any town-owned computers. He also did not add any comments to it.
"As mayor, I do not give up my right to engage in political discussion," he said. "But, I do recognize that people will closely scrutinize the actions of public officials. So, once again, I'm sorry."
Funderburk could not be reached by The Herald for further comment.
The lifelong Fort Mill resident relied on a platform of proactive leadership and new perspective to unseat longtime incumbent Charlie Powers last year. He's known to many as the public address announcer at Fort Mill and Nation Ford high school football games.
Fort Mill resident Courtney Newell defended Funderburk in a recent letter to The Herald.
"He never stated he believed or agreed with the content in the e-mail," she wrote. "What is the big deal? We all forward political e-mail that is real, fictional, funny and sad."
Such explanations don't sit well with the Fort Mill area pastors who issued the letter last week. The primary author is Dorothy S. Johnson of Indian Hill AME Zion Church.
"There is still a burning question that remains in the minds of all citizens who believe in the Great Commandment and Golden Rule," she wrote. "What was your motive or intent for promoting such a damaging lie?"