Sevierville officials condemn 'offensive' comments by commissioner

Posted at 3:29 PM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 16:37:15-04

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Sevier County Commissioner made a homophobic statement during a county commission meeting that have since prompted calls of resignation.

WVLT News was at the Oct. 21 meeting when Commissioner Warren Hurst took the floor to speak about the commission's pending vote on becoming a gun sanctuary city.

"It's time we wake up people. It's time. It's passed time," Hurst said.

Hurst continued onto other topics saying, "We got a queer running for president, if that ain't about as ugly as you can get," he said. "Look what we got running for president in the Democratic party. We can go over here to Hoss's jail [Sevier County Sheriff] and get better people out of there than those running for democratic to be President of the United States."

For the most part, the crowd clapped in support, but one woman could be seen leaving the meeting saying, "This is not professional. This is bull s***."

Hurst didn't stop there.

"I'm not prejudiced but by golly a white male in this country has very few rights and they're getting took more every day," said Hurst.

The next day, sh spoke with WVLT News. "County commissioners need to remember that when they're elected they need to rep everyone. This should serve as a reminder to all county commissioners to have more respect for each other and their constituents," said Sara Thompson.

The City of Sevierville rebuked the Hurst's comments and released the following statement:

"On October 21, 2019, Sevier County Commissioner Warren Hurst made several offensive remarks during an open commission meeting that have produced much concern and rightful indignation, within our city and beyond," said the statement. "Although Sevier County government is separate from Sevierville City government, we realize that these remarks still impact all of us living and working in this area."

"The City of Sevierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen and City administration reject bigotry and prejudice towards any and all persons. As such, we strongly condemn the remarks of Commissioner Hurst. Mr. Hurst’s remarks do not reflect the feelings of our residents, who are friendly, caring people and neighbors. The City of Sevierville and the entire Smoky Mountain community is a welcoming place for the millions that visit our region and the thousands who live here."

"The City of Sevierville does not discriminate in our business interactions, hiring, or attitudes towards our visitors or residents."

"The City of Sevierville is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex or handicap in its programs or activities pursuant to Public Law 93-112 or 101-336. The City of Sevierville does not discriminate based on race, color or national origin in federal or state sponsored programs, pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000d.)"

Assistant to the Sevier County Mayor, Perrin Anderson also denounced the homophobic comments.

"The statements made by Commissioner Hurst at the Sevier County Commission meeting of October 21, 2019, do not reflect the opinion or position of Sevier County administration," Anderson said. "Sevier County is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or status in any other group protected by law."

The Tennessee Equality project told WVLT News they want people to attend the next Sevier County commission meeting in protest.

"He should apologize and yes he should consider resigning," said a TEP representative. "If there were some weird extenuating circumstances like he was having a medical issue, but right now it just looks like he made those remarks."

"Tennessee Equality Project is urging people to attend the next Sevier County Commission meeting in red to send a message that racism and homophobia are not acceptable in East Tennessee. We will not forget the Commissioner's harmful words. We condemn them and we believe many people in the area feel the same way."

It's scheduled for November 18 at 6 p.m.

Learn more about the protest here.