PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WBTW) – The owner of the Palmetto Cheese brand, who is also the mayor of Pawleys Island, apologized Thursday for a racially insensitive Facebook post and explained the branding of his product, which is the target of calls for a boycott.
When posting on Facebook about a man who is charged with shooting and killing two people after a traffic accident in Georgetown, Mayor Brian Henry wrote: “2 innocent people murdered. Not 2 thugs or people wanted on multiple warrants. 2 white people defenselessly gunned down by a black man. Tell me, where is the outrage? When and where will we begin rioting and burning down businesses in Georgetown.”
Mayor Henry also referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “terror” organization. He went on to write: “Why do we stand by and allow BLM to lawlessly destroy great American cities and threaten their citizens on a daily basis? Should they have a carte blanche license to pillage and destroy? This has gone on too far. Rise up America.”
In a press briefing on Thursday, Henry said, “I am profoundly sorry to those I offended with my post last week. My comments were hurtful and insensitive.” He said he needed time to self reflect and reach out for dialogue, which provided him with a deeper understanding of racial inequality and the importance of diversity sensitivity.
The controversy also called attention to the branding of Palmetto Cheese, which includes the face of a Black woman on the product’s packaging.
The company will be creating a foundation to honor the memory of Vertrella Brown, Henry said. Brown is the woman pictured on Palmetto Cheese packaging because her image personifies low country cuisine, Henry said.
“Vertrella Brown began producing batches of Sassy Henry’s recipe in 2003 for delighted guests at Sea View Inn,” according to the company’s website. “And her image personifies the soulful flavor that is embodied in this unique, southern recipe of pimento cheese. And this is why we refer to it as ‘The Pimento Cheese with Soul.'”
Henry said as it relates to the branding, “We have already initiated a product rebranding effort to be more sensitive to culural diversity.”
Comments on social media falsely suggest Vertrella created the recipe for Palmetto Cheese, Henry said. “However, that is simply not true. The recipe for Palmetto Cheese is and always has been Sassy Henry’s recipe.”
The company has always had a private compensation contract with Vertrella and her family, Henry added. “There is a concerted effort to boycott Palmetto Cheese. Please consider the hundreds of South Carolina jobs that depend on its success. We humbly ask for your support.”
The Vertrella Brown foundation will be built to improve race relations through community events, provide scholarship opportunities for young people, offer grants to help aspiring entrepreneurs, and assist local food bank programs.
The Georgetown branch of the NAACP is calling for Henry’s resignation as mayor following the Facebook post. Leaders said it was an important opportunity to create unity among the community but Henry chose to do something different. Outrage over crimes in the community is different depending on the race of the accused, one leader said at a news conference on Saturday.
When asked if he has considered resigning, Henry said he was not going to answer any questions.