Candidate Saunders apologizes for Ferguson post

Robert Saunders in a campaign photo.

Robert Saunders in a campaign photo.

Legislative candidate Robert Saunders has apologized for a deleted Facebook post that said vandals involved in civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., should be shot with “two rounds through the brain.”

In a new post on his Facebook page on Sunday, Saunders wrote that he is not a racist but that “I have, however, said things, in person and online, that were wrong.”

A screenshot of Saunders’ post about Ferguson surfaced over the weekend after reports online and in the Billings Gazette quoted classmates of his at Patrick Henry College who accused him of having made racist statements. In the Gazette story, Saunders denied those claims, and Last Best News had earlier declined to report on them because of uncertainties about their accuracy.

In an online Facebook discussion among Patrick Henry College students on Saturday, a screenshot of the Ferguson Facebook post was attributed to Saunders.

However, no name or photo was visible in the screenshot, and Last Best News emailed a copy of it to Saunders on Saturday asking for confirmation. He did not respond directly, but he acknowledged in his Facebook post on Sunday that he had written it.

Ferguson was the site of protests and violence in 2014 after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. Although the officer was exonerated, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found a history of unlawful and discriminatory conduct by law enforcement in the city.

Screen shot of Robert Saunders' Ferguson post.

Screen shot of Robert Saunders’ Ferguson post.

Saunders’ post read, in part, “I’m thankful that justice prevailed in this situation and was not swayed by the tide of racism (against whites).” Citizens of Missouri should have shot anyone who attempted to vandalize “and made sure to finish them off with two rounds through the brain,” he wrote, adding, “Elimination of those people in self defense would probably have cut Missouri’s welfare handouts—and long-term crime rate—considerably.”

In his latest post, Saunders said he removed the Ferguson post after “realizing it wasn’t charitable, accurate, or a good representation of the Christian faith I profess.”

“The fact is,” he wrote, “I haven’t loved God or people the way I should. I didn’t before I ran for office, I haven’t while I’ve run for office, and I will struggle to do so when I’m in office, whether after this election or after another.”

He said he now believes that Ferguson protesters were motivated not by prejudice but by a sense of injustice. He apologized for saying that vandals should be shot and for suggesting that their deaths would reduce the welfare rolls.

“I spoke out of anger and a feeling of helplessness at the wanton violence and destruction of peoples’ livelihoods,” he wrote. “I should not have said it, and it did not accurately reflect my thoughts or feelings.”

Saunders, a Republican, is seeking to unseat Democrat Jessica Karjala. Saunders threatened to sue Karjala for defamation in September for campaign references to an online post he had made that she said implied only rich people should be allowed to vote.

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