MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At least one state equality group is calling for a better explanation and apology from Shelby County Commissioner and Memphis mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer. That request comes after a series of homophobic tweets surfaced over the weekend.
The tweets include one in which Sawyer bragged about outing a lesbian teacher in high school.
In light of one of those tweets being made just five years ago, the Tennessee Equality Project say they want to know how and when Sawyer’s views toward the LGBTQ community changed, and they say she should apologize to the teacher she outed.
“I just think she needs to have a candid conversation with our community,” said Ginger Leonard, board chair/president of the Tennessee Equality Project.
Leonard says she and other members of her group were stunned over the weekend as more old tweets by Sawyer surfaced.
In one from 2009, Sawyer said she would wave at lesbians “from a distance.” In another posted just five years ago in 2014, she said she outed a teacher in high school.
“We had a teacher that was a closeted lesbian. Decided it was our duty to out her. She quit after a semester #meangirls,” Sawyer wrote.
“It’s hurtful, and it’s unnecessary,” said Leonard, “That hurts me personally because it could happen to me.”
In a statement posted online Monday, the TEP of Shelby County said they want to know how Sawyer will support the LGBTQ community in her current role on the county commission.
The executive director of Out Memphis Molly Rose Quinn also penned a lengthy letter posted online Monday, acknowledging she’s known Sawyer for many years and expressed frustration with the comments.
“Because of my personal relationship with her, it is my opinion that Tami Sawyer is not a bigot and does not wish violence upon our community,” Quinn wrote. “However, her public response thus far has not confirmed that for all of you or for our city.”
Sawyer appeared at a political forum Sunday night but walked away from our cameras when we asked for an interview.
In an article she wrote Saturday, she said she would apologize for some but not all of her tweets, which have included a word offensive to those with special needs, a joke about white babies, and a comment that she has little admiration for police.
The controversy comes just more than two weeks from election day in the city’s municipal election.
“Certainly one thing is to find out all the tweets, all the other embarrassing social media posts and bring them out herself and say this is who I was,” said Michael Nelson, WMC Action News 5 political analyst. “It’s not who I am, but I realize a simple apology is not enough to take before the voters.”
WMC Action News 5 reached out to Sawyer and the PR contact for her campaign to request an on-camera interview to discuss Monday’s developments. Our message was not returned.
Sawyer later told the Daily Memphian, “I fell short in my path. And that path is something I have to reckon with the outcome. I’ve worked really hard to make sure they understand that I understand the pain that was caused.”