V.A. Mayor Apologizes for Calling Kamala Harris Racist Nickname: 'Wrong, Offensive & Unbecoming'

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In their statement about censuring the mayor, the council members called his word "harmful."

"While the Town Council affirms the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, as elected officials, we are held to a higher standard within our communities," they said. "Statements by public officials have a powerful impact on the community."

"We have listened carefully to and reflected deeply upon the public comments shared with the town during the past week. Your apology is a step towards reconciliation with our citizens, however, damage both internal and external to our community remains."

The council members added that the statement of censure "focuses on the action" and that they expect Presgraves' "highest level of commitment and dedication to serving all citizens" regardless of "race, sex or other characteristics."

"We recognize that words alone will not advance this cause or any other. We are dedicated to working in a transparent manner to build public trust in Town governance and move our great Town forward during this time of healing," the statement concluded.

Harris previously chatted with PEOPLE about opening new doors for women in politics. “Each woman who breaks a barrier and expands the minds of people in terms of what’s possible and what that looks like, they do our country a great service,” she said last fall while running to be the Democratic presidential candidate. “I certainly do think about it that way.”

“My mother had many expressions and one of them was, she would say, ‘Kamala, you may be the first to do many things, but make sure you’re not the last,'” Harris recalled.  “So with breaking those barriers, I’ve also felt a responsibility to lay a path for other people to follow.”

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