Quick recap: As we stated in a previously article, Plano Council Member Tom Harrison has found himself in very hot water, following an ill-advised Facebook post, targeted at Islamic school children. You’ll find that article here.
As of about an hour ago, that post has since been deleted. But I took a screenshot of it this morning. Here’s the post in question:
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere heard about the post from various concerned citizens and at 2 p.m. held a press conference so that he could respond. And respond, he did.
Here’s the exact speech Mayor Harry gave:
“I called this press conference today to demand an immediate resignation of Plano City Council member Tom Harrison. Mr. Harrison posted a message on Facebook denouncing the religion of Islam last night. The response across the community and beyond has been one of outrage. Mr. Harrison’s position indicates he is unfit to represent this richly diverse city. This conduct is inconsistent with the values of our City as stated in our Equal Rights Policy which prohibits discrimination based on religion.
“Mr. Harrison’s conduct is unbefitting a council member who serves our diverse community. I find this Facebook post abhorrent and believe this is a stain on our city and does not represent who we are.”
When he heard about the post, he said he was shocked and that Harrison had never made these sorts of comments to him directly. The conference was attended by various members of the media, including yours truly, and citizens as well. In the questions that followed, Mayor Harry said that he had been trying to get a hold of Tom Harrison all day and that Harrison had yet to respond.
He said they were “anxiously waiting” to understand his motivation. To his knowledge there is nothing to suggest his account was hacked.
“If that is his view then he does not represent the entire city or what we stand for,” Mayor Harry repeated. Some people spoke, not to ask questions, but simply to thank the mayor and city for their quick response.
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere offered this message to the Islamic community: “This is your home. You’re as welcome as anyone else.”
If Harrison doesn’t resign, we as a city could take action to recall him. A council member can be recalled based on grounds of incompetency, misconduct or malfeasance in office. There would have to be a petition, signed by qualified voters of the city equal in number to at least 30 percent of the number of votes cast at the regular municipal election of the city.
A total of 9,301 votes were cast in the 2015 election, according to the city of Plano. A recall petition for Harrison–in the event one occurs–would require 2,791 signatures.
This post has angered and alienated many people in our community. As of now, we’re all still waiting for some kind of response from Harrison, who hasn’t offered a comment yet.
***Updated as of 2/16/18
Tom Harrison has issued a the following apology on his Facebook page:
“I want to sincerely apologize to the Plano Muslim Community for the unintentional hurt I caused by reposting something on my personal Facebook page that wrongfully implied I am anti-Muslim. My intent on inputting this on my personal Facebook page was to emphasize that Christianity is not the only religion being targeted for exclusion in our public school. It was not meant as a personal attack against the Islamic faith. As a Christian, it is my belief that all should be free to worship as they choose, but we live in a time where any practice of religious expression in public schools is rarely tolerated. My hope is that due to the rightful negative response to my post, that it will spark a renewed discussion about all religions and their place in our public schools. My other regret is that my personal action has reflected poorly on the City of Plano. My action was personal in nature, but I should have remembered this past Monday night’s Council discussion …. none of us are ever truly off duty. None of us are perfect, and we will all be judged one day by the highest authority. Until then, I ask for forgiveness within the community and acceptance of my sincere apology.”
Tom Harrison, February 14, 2018
***Updated as of 2/19/18
In a Special Called Session of Plano City Council, the mayor and all council members spoke about the post in question and in a stunning show of solidarity, one after another apologized to the community and urged Harrison to resign. As it turns out, this single post wasn’t an isolated incident. By a vote of seven to one (Harrison was the one) they voted in favor of censuring Tom Harrison for his actions, the highest action they can take against a member of their own.
Kayci Prince said, “While [free speech] means we have the right to share and say what we want, that doesn’t mean we always should. Our words always have consequences. Our responsibilities as members of the Plano City Council demand a higher level of behavior. When we are elected the citizens of Plano expect our very best.” They all acknowledged that the apology wasn’t sufficient and that his actions have caused division in the community.
Tom Harrison’s post wasn’t an isolated incident. In fact more bigoted, racist and xenophobic posts from Tom Harrison’s Facebook have been unearthed. Other posts were found in Harrison’s Facebook, viewed by Community Impact, who described them like this: “Some of Harrison’s Facebook posts were unknown to several council members until earlier that day, including links Harrison shared in 2016 to articles that made politicized statements about black fatherhood and falsely asserted that all present-day slaveowners are Muslim.”
Council Member Angela Miner said that while Tom Harrison was a nice person, his actions had given Plano a “very public black eye.” She also urged Harrison to resign.
Council Member Anthony Ricciardelli said that he had come into the session prepared to forgive. He said Harrison is a good man and a friend and he had been unwilling to ask for a resignation over a single incident, but that viewing the other posts by Tom Harrison had changed his view and he believed that Harrison could not effectively serve the community now.
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Grady called Harrison’s actions “intolerable” and said that the events of Wednesday had broken his heart.
Tom Harrison did apologize on his Facebook. However, that apology is now deleted along with his entire profile. During the special session he asserted that he is neither a xenophobe, a racist or bigot. He did not apologize during the council.
We’re way beyond the original post and what Harrison meant by it. Here’s where we are: Plano is broken apart. We are divided and hostile. A stupid post Harrison made caused it–not just one post, but several stupid posts, in fact. Furthermore, members of our community now feel alienated and discriminated against by their neighbors. Worst, they feel discriminated against by a member of their council who swore to represent them. Tom Harrison has apparently stopped apologizing for the utter chaos that has resulted from his actions. He stated, to boos and cheers, that he will not resign.
So the chaos goes on.
If you like, you may view the entire special session, courtesy of the City of Plano’s Facebook.