The Muslim Educational Trust and a collection of faith community members came together Monday to offer a chance for Clackamas County Commissioner Mark Shull to apologize for offensive and racist remarks he made on Facebook in recent years.
Shull, who was sworn into office last week, has been under significant pressure to resign after the Clackamas Review first reported on a series of comments he posted to Facebook in 2019 and 2020. Those comments attacked Muslims, immigrants, the Black Lives Matter movement and people who are transgender.
The full Clackamas County Board of Commissioners — including Shull himself — voted in favor of a resolution Thursday calling for his resignation, though Shull has resisted that step.
In a statement ahead of Monday’s press conference, Muslim Educational Trust President Wajdi Said stated that removing Shull would be an “easy” action.
“Even harder is making community with all those neighbors loving and believing in the man you and I don’t want around anymore,” Said wrote.
Shull said he appeared at the press conference on Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Day to request “forgiveness and understanding from the Muslim community for my words that caused hurt.”
Shull explained his remarks in part by saying his military service often had him working with people who are Muslim that had been hurt overseas, and that after his military career, he continued to focus on “agents of conflict.”
“It is clear to me that my energy should have shifted a decade ago to become more involved with domestic peacekeeping, social understanding, and fostering community,” Shull said.
Shull added he never thought his “frank” and “uncensored” discussions on Facebook would be seen by people other than those they were directed at specifically.
Shull said when he first received an email with screenshots of his Facebook posts, he thought the revelation of the comments was intended to cause a “media storm” resulting in his resignation.
“But much more importantly, I realized that the email caused sincere concern to the public and hurt the Muslim community,” he said.
Shull said he was not approached by the person who originally took screenshots of his Facebook comments “to discuss the facts” or to ask why he made the comments. He also claimed he had received death threats since the comments became public.
Ahead of a swearing in ceremony last week, Clackamas County decided to cancel the event due to “violent threats.” When asked by OPB to elaborate on the nature of those threats and whether law enforcement had reviewed them, the county declined to provide specifics.
While faith leaders at Monday’s press conference condemned Shull’s remarks, they also offered him an opportunity for reconciliation.
“On behalf of our religious leaders,” Said stated, “we have chosen a path of healing.”
Said told Shull his remarks were bigoted, but that calling for his resignation added to a culture of conflict.
Still, divisions remain over Shull’s remarks. On Thursday, CAIR-Oregon joined a broad coalition of lawmakers and civil rights groups calling for Shull to resign, saying his comments were “targeted, rife with bigotry, dog whistles and doubling down hard.”
Shull did not take questions from the media Monday, and delivered at least one puzzling moment when asked about comments he made around the Black Lives Matter movement.
“If it’s OK, Mark, say, ‘Black Lives Matter,” said Pastor Matt Hennesse, “a statement from you about Black lives.”
“All lives matter,” Shull responded after several seconds. “Black lives. White lives. All lives in creation.”
Over the course of the nearly two-hour press conference, Shull did not address transphobic statements he made or offer an apology to LGBTQ community members.
He also said he recognized that people may not immediately accept the apologies he did offer.
“I do not expect everyone in our state that has heard this today to believe in my sincerity, because anyone can say they are sincere,” he said.
Rather than focus on his apology, Shull asked the community to look at his “performance in the coming weeks and decide.”