OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video leading a racist chant said Wednesday he’s deeply sorry for his role in the incident and upset and embarrassed that he failed to stop it.
Flanked by several black Oklahoma City community leaders, including pastors and civil rights activists, Levi Pettit publicly apologized following a meeting he had with civic leaders at a Baptist Church on the city’s predominantly black northeast side.
“Some have wondered why I hadn’t spoken out publicly. The truth is I have had a mix of pain, shame, sorrow and fear over the consequences of my actions,” said Pettit, whose voice quivered slightly as he spoke. “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I first came to apologize to those most directly impacted.”
Pettit, who is from the Dallas area, and several other members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the university were caught on video engaging in the chant that referenced lynching and used a racial slur to describe how African-Americans would never become members.
Pettit answered a few questions from reporters but declined to say who taught him the chant or where he learned it.
“The truth is what was said in that chant is disgusting … and after meeting with these people I’ve learned these words should never be repeated,” Pettit said.
State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, the chair of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus, coordinated Wednesday’s meeting after Pettit reached out to her. Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, said she believes Pettit’s apology is genuine and she has forgiven him.
“I admire his courage of reaching out to me and saying: ‘I want to meet with you face to face and apologize to you directly,'” Pittman said. “I believe he is sincere.”
Pettit said he also met Tuesday with leaders from OU’s football team, who he said accepted his apology.
Pettit’s parents issued an apology on his behalf two weeks ago after the video’s release caused an uproar on the university’s campus in Norman, which is located about 20 miles south of Oklahoma City. A second student from the Dallas area, Parker Rice, also issued a statement apologizing for his role in the chant.
OU President David Boren severed ties with the fraternity, ordered its members to vacate the fraternity house and expelled two students for leading the chant. The university also launched an investigation into the role other fraternity members may have had in the chant, and Boren says further disciplinary action is possible.
Stephen Jones, an attorney for the now-disbanded local fraternity, said Wednesday that an agreement already has been reached with the university that calls for no members of the fraternity to be expelled. Jones declined to comment further about the details of the agreement, and a spokesman for Boren would not confirm it.
In an email to The Associated Press, Boren’s press secretary Corbin Wallace said Boren would announce the results of the university’s investigation during a news conference Friday.
Jones, who was hired by alumni of the local fraternity chapter, said that both of the young men who Boren ordered expelled actually withdrew from the university first. A spokeswoman for the university would not confirm that, citing student privacy laws.
The national Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity also disbanded its OU chapter and announced it is taking steps to become more inclusive, including requiring all of its members nationwide to go through diversity training and setting up a confidential hotline for people to report inappropriate behavior.
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