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Temecula Mayor James Stewart. (Photo: Temecula.gov)

Temecula Mayor James Stewart Resigns Over Email About Police Killings

Many Temecula residents did not believe the ‘speech-to-text excuse’

By Evan Symon, June 5, 2020 2:29 pm

On Thursday, Temecula Mayor James Stewart resigned after an email was released in which he said “I don’t believe there’s ever been a good person of color killed by a police officer.”

Stewart apologizes, resigns

Mayor Stewart had apologized earlier Thursday.  In his apology, Stewart claimed that his email, which was written in response to a question about Temecula police sensitivity training, accidentally included the word “good” due to his use of using speech-to-text to compose letters due to dyslexia.

“Unfortunately I did not take the time to proofread what was recorded. I absolutely did not say that,” Stewart said in a statement on Thursday. “What I said is and I don’t believe there has ever been a person of color murdered by police, on context to Temecula or Riverside County. I absolutely did not say ‘good.’ I have no idea how that popped up.”

Despite the apology, those calling for his resignation quickly grew, with many Temecula residents not believing the “speech-to-text excuse” and calling for his resignation. National attention was also being drawn to the incident due to heightened racial and police brutality sensitivities following the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests since late May.

With growing discontent and accusations of racism, Mayor Stewart, who was first elected as Mayor in 2016, finally resigned Thursday night. On Facebook, Mayor Stewart gave a farewell post.

City of Temecula, I hear you, I agree with you, and I am deeply sorry. I owe everyone an apology including our…

Posted by Temecula Stew on Thursday, June 4, 2020

“I owe everyone an apology including our citizens of all backgrounds and ethnicities, City staff, and my respected colleagues on the City Council,” said Mayor Stewart on Facebook. “You have every right to be hurt and offended. My typos and off-the-cuff response to an email on a serious topic added pain at a time where our community, and our country, is suffering. I may not be the best writer and I sometimes misspeak, but I am not racist. I deeply regret this mistake and I own it, entirely. I am truly sorry.

I understand that even my sincerest apologies cannot remedy this situation. Because actions speak louder than words, I will step down as your Mayor and City Council Member effective immediately. It has been a true honor to serve this great City and its citizens. My love for Temecula and its residents is beyond expression.”

A mixed reception in Temecula

Stewart’s resignation received a mixed reception in Temecula. Those for resignation pointed out that a letter regarding something important like police training is usually written out, that there had been incidents of police brutality in the area in the 90’s, and that a cursory proofreading would have caught the mistake. Supporters have said that it was unfair that a simple mistake  could force resignation and that Stewart had never shown any racist tendencies before the email incident.

“Based on what we have and looking at his career, it looks like it was most likely a mistake in the ‘text-speech’ vein he gave,” noted political analyst Corey Hentgen. “During any other time an apology would have sufficed, but everything having to do with race is hypersensitive due to all the protests and riots.”

“There is some legitimate blame on Stewart. He should have double or triple checked before sending it out. But, in all likelihood, it was a simple mistake that was blown out of proportion and he had to resign due to public perception fueled by  protests and a nationwide call against racism.”

“Every politician and person in an elected position is going to double-check from now on.”

In a final statement, Mayor Stewart noted his frustration with the misquote.

“It’s really sad that somebody who has no history of racism can be labelled a racist with one misquote,” added Stewart. “So that’s really kind of my whole thing. Everybody’s labelled me as a racist, when I have no history of this.”

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