NAACP Statement Regarding Ken Combs' Comments From April 10, 2003

Gulfport Branch of NAACP -Official Statement
RE: Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs' Comments to the Sun Herald Editorial Board

South Mississippi and the City of Gulfport finds itself yet again in the throes of controversy surrounding the fitness of an elected official to serve the common good for all the people.

Americans hold our elected officials to a high standard of ethical conduct. Elected officials are expected to debate issues of public concern without resort to vulgarity and insult. Elected officials are expected to lead intelligently and prayerfully. Contempt of and disrespect for those who express differing points of view are inconsistent with the American concept of leadership.

Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs stated during a private meeting arranged by Ward Four Councilman Kim Savant with the Sun Herald editorial board regarding a proposed development project in the North Gulfport community that the people who oppose the development are "some dumb bastards". He went on to add, "I'm not running for re-election so I guess I can say that. None of these people voted for me anyway."

Such common and profane language is totally unacceptable in a decent society. That these despicable words were spoken by an elected official in reference to members of the constituency which he is elected to serve is reprehensible. That these abhorrent words were directed at the residents of predominantly African American neighborhoods in the City of Gulfport is unforgivable.

Like former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott whose insulting remarks were made at an inner circle birthday party for Senator Strom Thurmond, Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs made his remarks in what he apparently perceived to be a "safe" environment for such expressions. Now that Combs' remarks have been disclosed to the public, Combs has embarked on the strategy employed by Trent Lott to minimize and dismiss his comments as "a bad choice of words" uttered when his "frustration at these [opposition] tactics boiled over..."

Taking another play from the Lott damage control playbook, Combs next denies that his words were the product of racial animus. Combs' after the fact disclaimer that "he was referring to neither race nor to the entire community of North Gulfport" does not stand up under close scrutiny. It cannot be disputed that the only opposition to the proposed development has come from the residents of the historically black communities of Turkey Creek and North Gulfport. Ken Combs' official statement, like the statements of Trent Lott, is an obvious and transparent attempt at damage control to save both himself and the development proposal from further public scrutiny.

The Gulfport Branch of the NAACP, joined by the undersigned elected officials of and from the City of Gulfport, calls on Gulfport Mayor Ken Combs to immediately tender his resignation as Mayor of the City of Gulfport.

Felicia Dunn Burkes
President, Gulfport Branch NAACP

Stanley "Rip" Daniels
Secretary Gulfport Branch NAACP

Joined By:

Honorable Frances Fredericks
Rep. House District 119

Honorable Ella Holmes-Hines
Councilwoman, Gulfport City Council Ward 3

William W. Martin
Supervisor, Harrison Board of Supervisors