Athens-Clarke County mayoral candidate Mara Zúñiga accepted the apology from former Athens mayor Gwen O’Looney for the use of an accidental racial slur but questioned her explanation.
Mayoral candidates gathered this week for a forum moderated by radio host Tim Bryant of WGAU. In an article from the radio station posted onto Facebook, former Athens mayor Gwen O’Looney wrote a comment that used a slur to reference Zúñiga.
The now deleted comment reads as followed:
"I was there with all the old GOG - JOHN ELLIOTT, CULPEPPER, ETC. FIRST WHO DID APPEARANCE FOR THE N**** A HORRIBLE JOB VERSUS KELLY GOODS DOING A BRILLIANT JOB."
The phrase “first appearance” made it clear the reference was to Zúñiga, who was the only mayoral candidate at the WGAU forum who was making a first appearance. This was later confirmed when O’Looney wrote a follow-up apology post.
In this apology post, O’Looney explained that it was “autocorrect” and that she would “never say that.” The text of the full post read:
"Someone just sent me a message I sent in reply to an invite to last night's candidate forum and it was badly mangled by autocorrect which I didn't even know Facebook did, but have been a victim of autocorrection on texting. I should have reread before hitting the key. Kelly Girtz became KELLY GOODS and Mara Zuniga's name got made into THE N***A and you know I would never say that, but do apologize for even the appearance of that kind of slight. I know there are some low feeders who will try to make a scandal of this, but those who know me know I have condemned this type of speech since high school. Just another reason I stay off Facebook. So sorry this happened."
The Athens Banner-Herald has censored all slurs, however, the original post was not censored. In her apology post, Facebook edit history shows that O’Looney used an uncensored version of the slur but later changed it to say, "wording very much like the N Word I would never use."
Zúñiga and O’Looney made an appearance Thursday morning together on Bryant’s radio show, however, due to technical difficulties, O’Looney was not present until the last several minutes.
The show kicked off with a statement from Zúñiga, who explained her initial reaction and questioned O’Looney’s explanation of “autocorrect.”
Zúñiga explained that she felt disheartened when she heard about the post and that it was "very humiliating," especially coming from a previous mayor.
"I originally accepted this excuse of an autocorrect mishap until it was brought to my attention that an autocorrect never autocorrects to that word, unless you have used that word many times before," Zúñiga said.
Zúñiga did accept the apology, however asked O’Looney to do better, adding that it seems that O’Looney does not understand the gravity of her mistake.
“A little respect is not much to ask,” Zúñiga said.
Bryant and Zúñiga additionally said that they experimented with trying to misspell Zúñiga’s name but no attempts resulted in the same correction O’Looney claimed to have had.
When O’Looney was able to connect with the radio show in the last few minutes, she reiterated her apology, adding that many have come forward to her to say that they know she would not use a slur.
“It was an irresponsibly done message and I should have checked it over,” O’Looney said.
Bryant additionally asked O’Looney on how this mistake could happen, who clarified that it was a speech-to-text mistake. Bryant, however, questioned her further to ask how she could use the speech-to-text function to switch to all capitalization mid-rant.
O’Looney responded that she did not know.
This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: Mara Zúñiga accepts former Athens mayor's apology for accidental slur