Oklahoma governor calls for resignations after county officials reportedly discussed killing journalists, hanging Black people
"Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has called for the McCurtain County sheriff and multiple county officials to resign after leaked audio showed the county leaders discussing killing local reporters and lynching Black people.
Sheriff Kevin Clardy, his investigator Alicia Manning, Commissioners Mark Jennings and Robert Beck, commissioners’ secretary Heather Carter and jail administrator Larry Hendrix were speaking with one another after the March 6 meeting of the county Board of Commissioners, according to the McCurtain Gazette-News.
“There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office,” said Stitt. “I will not stand idly by while this takes place.
In a series of audio clips and transcripts released by the print-only newspaper, the county leaders begin with a discussion of a fire that killed Dannette Stoewe, 43, after she ran back inside a burning building to rescue her dogs.
In graphic detail, Clardy explains the county wrapped Stoewe’s body “up in tinfoil to preserve the body and stuff like that.”
The discussion then delves into a joke about starting a barbecue.
“So we get her in the body bag and Kyler goes, ‘You do know what we gotta do now, right?’ Faith goes, ‘No, what?’ He goes, ‘You gotta pre-heat the oven 350 degrees, leave her in there for 15 minutes,’” Clardy said. “And she went [vomit sounds, laughter]. Bless her heart. It was … and then the medical examiner asked her, said, ‘Hey we’re fixing to go eat.’ And he looked her in the face and said, ‘You wanna go with me and go eat barbecue?’”
The discussion then devolves into a conversation about Jenning’s desire for a return to the days of lynching.
Jennings said the nearly 20 people running for sheriff “don’t have a god— clue what they’re getting into.”
“I’m gonna tell you something,” Jennings said. “If it was back in the day, when … Alan Marshton would take a damn Black guy and whoop their ass and throw him in the cell? I’d run for f— sheriff.”
Clardy then tells Jennings, “It’s not like that no more.”
“I know,” Jennings responds. “Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a damn rope. But you can’t do that anymore. They got more rights than we got.”
Next, they discussed hiring hit men, and they specifically mention journalists Chris Willingham — the Gazette-News reporter who broke the story about the comments and is in litigation with Manning for defamation and civil rights violations — and Bruce Willingham.
Manning said the reporters “are insignificant in my life,” while Clardy promises her that “what goes around goes around.”
“I know where two big deep holes are here if you ever need them,” Jennings added. Clardy said he has an excavator, to which Jennings replies the holes are “already dug.”
Jennings then adds he has known “two or three hit men” who are “very quiet guys” and who “would cut no f— mercy.”
They then posit who would be blamed for the hit if someone found out.
“Yeah, but here’s the reality,” said Manning. “If a hair on his wife’s head, Chris Willingham’s head, or any of those people that really were behind that, if any hair on their head got touched by anybody, who would be the bad guy?”
The Sheriff’s office did not answer The Hill’s call for comment. Jennings’ office did not have a statement at the time of publication.
The FBI is investigating the sheriff and county officials, while Stitt said he is “appalled” and “disheartened” by the comments.
“In light of these events, I am calling for the immediate resignation of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings, investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administer Larry Hendrix,” Stitt said."