A city council member in Charlotte, North Carolina, has refused to resign despite mounting backlash over a 9/11 conspiracy theory article she posted on Facebook earlier this week. The report, shared by councilwoman LaWana Mayfield, falsely stated that a reputable scientific journal had found evidence of a controlled demolition at the site of the Twin Towers.
The backlash started on Monday, when Mayfield shared an article titled, "Official: European Scientific Journal Concludes 9/11 Was A Controlled Demolition." The dubious story, published by AwarenessAct.com, has been debunked numerous times. Still, Mayfield added her own commentary to the widely-shared post, writing, "I am still waiting for someone to produce pieces of the planes that opened the doors for US Citizens to lose all privacy rights (from the conspiracy theorist in me)."
After receiving hundreds of complaints, the councilwoman sent a lengthy letter to constituents on Wednesday saying she wouldn't step down as a council member for the third district, despite the divisive post. She wrote that the backlash against her has been fueled in part by misogyny and racism, noting that the comment section on her Facebook page now contains dozens of racist and sexist messages.
"I mourn, as an American, and wholly believe that were it not for the brave and heroic efforts of many, more lives would have been lost," she wrote in the letter to her constituents, first obtained by WSOC-TV. "...I did NOT say I would stop having my own opinions or stop being BLACK, nor will I forget as James E Baldwin once said that "'To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.'"
Although she didn't apologize, she attempted to clarify her remarks, also writing that it wasn't her intention to "invalidate" the deaths of the more than 3,000 people who were killed in the Twin Towers.
The original post had collected a litany of supportive comments from "9/11 Truthers"—a nickname referring to people who believe the September 11 attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government— and others who survived or lost loved ones in the attack.
Charlotte resident Elissa Bahanovich, who worked on the 53rd floor of 2 World Trade Center, recounted standing a block away from the building when it was struck by the hijacked plane. The survivor told Newsweek that Mayfield should apologize, and that the elected's attempts at clarifying the remarks weren't enough.
"I was really hurt by her comment," Bahanovich told Newsweek. "I cried a bit this morning. I thought, 'Wow, she actually thinks this."
Survivors groups also blasted Mayfield, who has been serving in the Charlotte City Council since 2011. Many of them signed a Change.org petition urging her to resign.
Bill Keegan, president and founder of Heart 9/11, a group that serves first responders, described the 9/1 conspiracies as "disrespectful" but urged victims to ignore them.
"The closer you are emotionally to a traumatic event, the nearer in time to the event, the more these conspiracy theories and theorists aggravate you and extend your grief/anger," Keegan told Newsweek. "But, as time passes you realize that ignoring the conspiracy theorists is how you dismantle their influence."
As of Thursday, the petition to remove the councilwoman had close to 1,000 signatures.
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