FORT ANN — Village Mayor Denis Langlois read an apology Monday night for his Facebook post that called people who vote for Democrats “retarded.”
He said he would not resign, and the two other village board members did not ask him to during their monthly meeting at the Village Hall.
Langlois, who was deputy mayor and then appointed to his position after former Mayor Russell Blair resigned in October 2017, made the post on his private Facebook page around Election Day. It read: “If anyone that I know vote for a Democrat on Tuesday you should sign yourself into the Mental Health unit at your local Hospital because you are retarded and need help, Vote Republican and ‘Keep America Great’!”
In a phone interview on Election Day with The Post-Star, Langlois said he did not regret the post.
“Whether it’s politically correct or not, it’s what I believe, and it doesn’t matter,” he had said. “I talk from my heart and my soul, and that’s all there is to it.”
In a second phone interview with The Post-Star, Langlois said he used a poor choice of words.
Monday night, before his wife and Village Treasurer Diane Langlois, Clerk Linda Blondin, Village Trustee Ed Sharrow, Deputy Mayor Roy Steves and three empty chairs for the public, Denis Langlois apologized.
He read his prepared statement.
“First, I would like to apologize to anyone who was offended by my post,” Langlois read. “That being said, the post was intended to be political only, and had no intention for anyone with challenges of any kind. I agree that it was a poor and inappropriate use of words. I have never and do not ever make fun or call people with challenges names. I am, however, proud of being a very conservative Republican, and will not apologize for that.
“I have thick skin, personality, and am not offended easily,” Langlois continued. “However, I do realize that words sometimes hurt. I know that some of you will not accept my apology as enough, and I will have to accept that.”
Wendy Johnston, an associate professor of political science at SUNY Adirondack, said the language in politics is changing, especially in the era of President Donald Trump.
“I would say that his (Trump’s) rhetoric, his use of, you know, words like ‘nationalist,’ things like that, are definitely trickling down into society and into local governments,” Johnston said. “We’re seeing it on so many levels.”
Trump’s decisions to say whatever comes to mind, whether it offends a person or not, Johnston added, has given a voice to those who once felt repressed by the constraints of being politically correct. Johnston said there are pros and cons to that.
“Certainly the cons are that we’re seeing language that has been used against other groups of people coming back into our everyday language, and with language used to suppress and oppress, I think that’s a negative,” she said.
She considers language like “retarded” to be oppressive because it makes a certain group of people feel like they can’t be a part of society.
Casting aside some political correctness, however, has created more discourse.
“I would say that since the 2016 election, we’re talking a lot,” she added. “We may be disagreeing, we may get heated, but we actually are engaging in discourse, and for me, that’s a net positive.”
Social media is also blurring the lines for those in the public eye. Langlois did not realize his Facebook post was public, he had said. Johnston said things people might say at the dinner table are now being tweeted or posted.
Langlois’ original post got national attention from Newsweek, Time magazine and even the overseas publication The Daily Mail.
But back in the village of Fort Ann, where he has lived since 1986, Langlois said he loves his job and hopes to continue serving his constituents.
“In closing, I am certain that everyone has said or done something in their lifetime that they wish they could take back or do different,” he read. “I know I have. ... I don’t believe it makes you a bad person to make a mistake. It makes you a bad person if you don’t try to correct it.”
Village trustees did discuss at least one person who has come forward to petition for signatures to run in the upcoming March election. Blondin said signatures of registered voters in the village can only be collected after the New Year and will need to be presented to her office sometime in mid-February. Elections will be held from noon to 9 p.m. on the third Tuesday in March.