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'Phew! What a firestorm,' McDonald says of fuss over protest remarks

Sheriff Charlie McDonald Sheriff Charlie McDonald

Sheriff Charlie McDonald is not reaching for a broom to sweep away the controversy over his remarks about protests.

McDonald made news across the state last month with comments in his monthly newsletters about "vile and disgusting protests ... that appear to be the result of an anti-American social progressive movement" subverting American values. In interviews he's walked back the remarks, saying he wasn't talking about local demonstrations, which have been peaceful and without vulgarities.

Now, in the new issue of "The Guardian" out today, McDonald confronts the issue head on. He devotes 568 words to his side of the story, declaring his support for peaceful protests and calling for unity.

"I not only support their right to protest, but I am sworn to protect it! I never said or meant to imply that the protests in our county were anything other than peaceful," he wrote.

He defends the newsletter as a way to communicate directly with the people. "I don't adjust it for politics," he said. "Neither should anyone else."

Here's the entire piece from McDonald:

"Phew! What a firestorm was generated by my message in the February Guardian. I took issue with violent protestors and those who disregard the rule of law by destroying property and trampling on the rights of others. I wrongly assumed that the fact that I referred to violence and the disregard for the rule of law would make it clear that I was not referring to those who protest peacefully and with respect. That, however, was not the case. There were those who voiced their displeasure with what they thought I said, and who they thought I was talking about, without understanding the motives of my heart. My true intention was to find unity around what we all hold true and sacred in this great nation. I have received many letters and much consternation from citizens of Henderson County and other regions of the US who rebuked me for speaking against the peaceful protestors who practice their first amendment rights on a regular basis. I have said repeatedly as a sheriff, particularly one who fully values and believes in our Constitution, I not only support their right to protest, but I am sworn to protect it! I never said or meant to imply that the protests in our county were anything other than peaceful.

"I did meet with several very respectful and kind local citizens who protest regularly in our county, and we had friendly dialogue. I did concede that I should have avoided anything that made an assumption about the intentions of those with whom I disagree. I hope I will always be willing to see and admit my mistakes. As someone whose heart and motives are often called into question by many who do not know the complexities and inherent responsibilities of my job, nor know me personally, I will make every effort to avoid speaking about what is in the hearts of others. I believe we all need to revisit that concept if we want to have productive and fruitful debate.
"As your sheriff, I am committed to the safety, security and peace of all citizens. I carry out my duties without regard to race, religion, gender, creed, economic status or politics. That has never changed. It is still my hope that we can unite around what makes us great and keeps us free and let the time-proven process of our constitutional republic continue to ensure our survival as a free people.
"The bottom line and my last word on the matter is this: My newsletter message is my way to communicate with those citizens who elect to receive it and who desire to know my heart and my vision for Henderson County. I don't adjust it for politics. Neither should anyone else.
"It is my honor and privilege to serve as your elected Sheriff. The citizens of Henderson County make the choice on who their elected office holders will be. Communicating to citizens my stand on issues allows them to make an informed choice when they vote. I will continue to serve to the best of my ability as long as the majority of voters support me as Sheriff. That is what makes the Office of the Sheriff, one of the oldest law enforcement entities in this nation, so unique. It is, and should continue to be, the most liberty-centric and community responsive law enforcement organization the people have.
God bless and stay safe."