Two dozen civil rights groups signed a letter calling for the resignation of Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell, following an article in the Raleigh News & Observer in which Bizzell lamented the influx of “drunk Mexicans” who “rape, rob and murder” American citizens and are “breeding like rabbits” in his county.
His words ignited a firestorm of indignation from El Pueblo Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP and numerous other groups, which called the comments “alarming.” Eleven percent of Johnston County residents are Hispanic.
Bizzell quickly apologized, saying his remarks weren’t directed at legal, law-abiding Hispanics. The News & Observer noted that Bizzell “sympathizes with laborers who know the same calloused-hand work that he did as the son of a farmer.”
Cookie Pope, chair of the Johnston County commissioners, said the commission has no authority to ask for Bizzell’s resignation, as he is an elected official. Besides, Pope told the News & Observer, “We’ve all said and done things that we wish we hadn’t said or wish we hadn’t done. He apologized.”