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South Carolina Democrat apologizes for ‘white power’ remarks after Army, Navy personnel cleared of racist intent

A South Carolina state lawmaker has issued an apology after recently drawing backlash for accusing Army and Navy personnel of making a “white power” gesture at the recent Army-Navy college football game in Philadelphia.

“Not because of threats and harassment from Twitter trolls,” South Carolina state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, a Democrat from Lancaster, writes in an online post, “but because it’s the right thing to do.”

The post includes a two-page letter dated Monday and addressed to the superintendents of the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy.

SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRAT FACING BACKLASH AFTER ARMY, NAVY PERSONNEL CLEARED OF ‘WHITE POWER’ HAND-SIGNAL ALLEGATIONS

‘“I want to take this opportunity to earnestly apologize to your institutions,” Powers Norrell writes to the superintendents – Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams at West Point, N.Y., and Vice Adm. Sean Buck at Annapolis, Md.

Previously, in a since-deleted Twitter message, Powers Norrell had accused Army cadets and Navy midshipmen of contributing to a “cruel and disrespectful environment” by making “OK” gestures at the Dec. 14 football game between the two academies’ teams.

But following investigations, both service academies determined their personnel had been playing a “sophomoric game,” and were not trying to communicate racist messages.

ARMY, NAVY INVESTIGATORS FIND HAND GESTURES MADE DURING FOOTBALL BROADCAST WEREN’T RACIST

Powers Norrell drew criticism because, while she deleted her original Twitter post, she hadn’t commented after the investigation results – until releasing her letter Monday.

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In the letter she explains, “I took down my Twitter post when I realized soon after that the matter was becoming bigger and more volatile than the circumstances seemed to merit.”

“I took down my Twitter post when I realized soon after that the matter was becoming bigger and more volatile than the circumstances seemed to merit.”

— South Carolina state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster

She adds, “I was pleased to see the findings of the academies’ investigations, showing that the young men’s conduct was merely immature and not intended to be malicious or racist.”

South Carolina state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster

South Carolina state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster

The lawmaker also mentions that she has written individual letters to the men who were under investigation, “expressing my regret for adding any fuel to the firestorm,” and asks the academy superintendents to forward the letters to them, “as I do not know their names.”

Later, Powers Norrell shares the story of her father, who served in the Navy in the 1950s, telling her that he and other sailors were always briefed before arriving at different ports of call on what kinds of behaviors might be offensive to the people they would encounter at each stop.

Navy midshipmen march before an NCAA college football game against Army on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

Navy midshipmen march before an NCAA college football game against Army on Dec. 14 in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)

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She then suggests that the “OK” symbol be added to the list of gestures discussed in the academies’ “social awareness and sensitivity” training, to prevent future misunderstandings.

As of early Wednesday, Powers Norrell’s posting of the apology letter had received 775 likes and 161 retweets on Twitter.

Many commenters praised Powers Norrell for making the apology, while others doubted her sincerity. Some also defended the Army and Navy personnel, while others expressed skepticism about whether they really had been playing an innocent “game.”

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