Kalyn Chapman James, the first black woman to hold the title of Miss Alabama, posted a video on Facebook Live in which she calls the Dallas shooting gunman Micah Xavier Johnson a “martyr.”
James, who was crowned Miss Alabama in 1993 and made it to the top 10 finalists for Miss America a year later, posted the message on Sunday to discuss her thoughts on recent shootings around the U.S. The video has garnered more than 426,000 views.
“I can’t stop replaying the image of these men being killed in mind and my heart weeps,” she said. “But I think more than anything I’m dealing with a bit of guilt because I don’t feel sad for the officers that lost their lives.”
Though she said nobody deserves to die and knows the officers had loved ones, she said she can’t help but sympathize with Johnson, who killed five Dallas officers on Thursday.
“I want to feel sad for them but I can’t help but feeling like the shooter was a martyr,” she said. “I know it’s not the right way to feel. But I’m so torn up in my heart about seeing these black men being gunned down in our community that I cant help feel like I wasn’t surprised by what those shooters did to those cops. And I think a lot of us feel the same way.”
According to USA Today, James is now a TV host in Miami and was suspended by her employer, the South Florida PBS affiliate WPBT, which posted a statement on Monday night regarding her comments.
“WPBT2 South Florida PBS does not condone the personal statements made by one of its independent contractors regarding the events in Dallas. It placed the contractor on administrative leave while it actively and carefully looks further into the matter and will determine additional course of actions based on its thorough review of the matter.”
On the same day, Miss Alabama pageant operators also issued a statement to AL.com about James’ video.
“Kalyn Chapman James was Miss Alabama 23 years ago in 1993. The opinions she expressed are her own, and do not represent the viewpoint of the current Miss Alabama or the Miss Alabama Organization. We have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for the men and women of law enforcement, and would never condone violence of any kind.”
Since she posted the video, James said on Facebook that she has been threatened, harassed and called awful names.
James told TV station WPMI 15 that her words were taken out of context. In an statement given to AL.com, James says she does not take back what she said in the video but does “regret that any people lost their lives this week.”
“The fact that my opinion was considered newsworthy makes me feel like speaking up was exactly what I should do, because I can voice what so many people are feeling and dealing with and they should know they are not alone. I reiterate that I do not condone violence or killing at all. I offer my deepest condolences to all the families who lost their loved ones this week, including the officers in Dallas.”
Read her full statement here.