The last recorded lynching in Oklahoma occurred in 1930, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. But just earlier this month, some county leaders were caught on audio discussing killing reporters and complaining they can no longer lynch Black people.
Oklahoma’s governor, Kevin Stitt, has now called for the resignations of the sheriff and other top officials in a rural county after they were recorded talking about “beating, killing and burying” a father and son team of local reporters and saying they wished they hang Black people with a “damned rope.”
McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, county Commissioner Mark Jennings, sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning, and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix have been asked to step down after the McCurtain County Gazette-News published an article about what was captured on the recording, NBC News reported.
“I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,” Stitt, a Republican, said in a statement. “There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office.”
Stitt has also ordered the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to “initiate an investigation to determine whether any illegal conduct has occurred.”
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The audio was published on April 16 by the print-only newspaper McCurtain Gazette-News, which released a transcript of the damaging recording from a county commissioners meeting from March to the public. The full audio recording will be released by the newspaper later, WCPT Radio reported.
The station also reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is also looking into the accused officials.
While local governments outlawed lynching, it was not until 2022 the federal government took action, NPR reported. That year the Senate unanimously passed a bill that criminalizes lynching and makes it punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, after the 14-year-old boy from Chicago who was lynched while visiting family in Mississippi, was signed by President Joe Biden on March 29, 2022.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023, in Oklahoma City. Stitt called for the resignations of several county officials on April 16, in far southeast Oklahoma after the local newspaper released an audio recording of some of them discussing killing local journalists and hanging Black people. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)