South Carolina Democrat State Representative Mandy Powers Norrell issued an apology on Monday for smearing West Point cadets nearly two weeks ago when she falsely claimed that they were flashing “white power” signs during a college football game.
In her apology, Norrell called the cadets “immature” and demanded that there be sensitivity training at the service academies to educate the cadets because hand signals mean “different things to different people.” Norrell also attacked those who had called her out over her false statements as being “Twitter trolls.”
Norrell had faced days of intense backlash online after she jumped on the leftist outrage train accusing several cadets of flashing “white power” signs during the Army-Navy football game December 14. A military investigation found that was not true — the cadets were playing the circle game.
Norell tweeted on December 14, “Three separate cadets making the white power symbol on television. Wonder what the culture is like for the cadet in the front. There’s no excuse and he and other minorities there shouldn’t have to deal with such a cruel and disrespectful environment.”
On December 15, Norrell tweeted three more times about the incident and pushed back on those who told her that the cadets were playing the circle game. Norell tweeted:
Update. As of this morning, Westpoint has issued a statement saying it “doesn’t know the intention” of these cadets. I hope they figure it out soon.
The explanation given by many on twitter today is that these cadets are either saying things are “okay” or playing “the circle game” where they can punch someone who looks at their upside down okay symbol. How’s it a game if they’re on TV and can’t see who looks? Context.
More context: “4chan hoaxers hoped media would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist….By 2019, at least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic intent and use the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy”
Norrell had remained silent as calls grew for her to apologize for her false accusations against the cadets and after multiple media publications reached out to her for comment in recent days.
In her apology letter, which was addressed to Lt. General Darryl A. Williams and Vice Admiral Sean Buck, Norrell wrote:
On December 14, I retweeted a post regarding the racially charged hand gestures displayed by cadets and midshipmen at the Army-Navy game. I publicly expressed my concerns regarding their judgement and intent, as well as the environment at the two military academies. I took down my Twitter post when I realized soon after that the matter was becoming bigger and more volatile than the circumstances seemed to merit. I was pleased to see the findings of the academies’ investigations, showing that the young men’s conduct was merely immature and not intended to be malicious or racist.
I have written letters to the young men expressing my regret for adding fuel to the firestorm and offering them encouragement as they continue their studies and careers. I request that you forward these letters to them, as I do not know their names. I hope they can learn from this moment — as I have — that words, gestures and symbols matter, and that they may mean different things to different people.
Also, I want to take this opportunity to earnestly apologize to your institutions for some of the words I used in publicly describing the environment surrounding the incident as potentially “cruel and disrespectful” to minority members of the service. Though my concerns are sincere, those words were typed in the passion of the moment and without proper reflection.
Norrell want on to claim that the reason she assumed the cadets were flashing “white power” signs was because she has “always held our men and women in uniform” to “a higher standard of conduct.”
“Ironically, I now apologize to you and your institutions for me not being more mindful of those same character traits within myself when choosing words to post on social media,” Norrell later added. “I am confident that you and your staffs will seize this moment to incorporate the sideways “OK” hand gesture into any social awareness and sensitivity orientation your institutions provide.”
Norrell posted her letter on Twitter, writing, “Not because of threats and harassment from Twitter trolls, but because it’s the right thing to do:”
Not because of threats and harassment from Twitter trolls, but because it’s the right thing to do: pic.twitter.com/p9bnXg1htg
— SC Representative Mandy Powers Norrell (@MPowersNorrell) December 23, 2019
On Friday, the U.S. Military Academy released, in a series of tweets, the findings of their investigation into the cadets over the hand gestures that they used at the football game.
“The U.S. Military Academy announced today it has concluded an internal investigation of the cadets who displayed hand gestures during a broadcast of ESPN College GameDay at the Army-Navy game Dec. 14,” the U.S. Military Academy tweeted. “The investigating officer concluded that the cadets were playing a common game, popular among teenagers today, known as the ‘circle game’ and the intent was not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values.”
The investigating officer concluded that the cadets were playing a common game, popular among teenagers today, known as the “circle game” and the intent was not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values.
— U.S. Military Academy (@WestPoint_USMA) December 20, 2019
Despite playing an innocent game during a college football rivalry game, the U.S. Military Academy added, “based on the results of the investigation, those cadets involved will receive appropriate administrative and/or disciplinary actions.”