Comments that included the Muslim slur "ragheaded" have offended some Facebook friends of Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Hayes Ledford, who posted the remarks to the Web site in reference to 9/11.
"His statement is an embarrassment to Chattanooga, the city to which he is supposed to recruit jobs and industry," said Chris Anderson, a board member with the Hamilton County Democratic Party. "In this case, Mr. Ledford advocated brutal violence against an entire race of people, most of whom had nothing to do with attacking our great nation."
Mr. Ledford made his comments on the social networking Web site on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. His comments -- which were available to his 730 or so Facebook friends -- were in reference to the attackers of that day, he said.
"Those comments were intended privately for my friends on that site and not any broader public discourse," Mr. Ledford said in a statement Thursday. "I apologize that some may have interpreted my comments as about Muslims in general, which is not true, and that some of my language was inappropriate. This is my personal page with no references to my employer, and the responsibility for its content rests solely with me."
Chamber Executive Director Tom Edd Wilson said he hadn't seen the post, but said it was "something that we wouldn't tolerate, quite frankly."
Mr. Wilson said the Chamber has no policy regarding content posted to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
J.Ed. Marston, spokesman for the Chamber, argued that Facebook is not a public forum.
"It's friend-to-friend communication," he said.
Several of Mr. Ledford's friends, which include local and state officials and business leaders, asked not to be named when contacted about the comments, but said the statements were unfortunate.
Deborah Levine, president and managing editor of the American Diversity Report and one of Mr. Leford's Facebook friends, said people sometimes let their emotions get the best of them.
"Just because you're passionate about something doesn't mean you have to let your language and activities get overheated," she said.
But some commenters on Facebook cheered him on. One person commented on the picture that ran with Mr. Ledford's comment, a photo of the Statue of Liberty holding up its middle finger.
"Love the photo Hayes -- I'm gonna steal it from you now and pass it on," the person said.
Benjamin Bates, a professor at the University of Tennessee's School of Journalism and Electronic Media, said there's always a chance that information on social networking sites such as Facebook could become public.
"People generally attribute a level of privacy to anything that's on the Internet that's not necessarily realistic," he said. "You cannot absolutely promise that anything that goes on the Internet will always remain private."
WHAT HE WROTE
Mr. Ledford's comments appeared above a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding up its middle finger.
"This picture says it all, even after eight years. It symbolized our anger after those ragheaded b------ds manifested theirs through death and destruction. There is no substitute for victory and plenty of work left to be done. There is something to be said about the 'Chicago way,' but Sean Connery (in the film 'The Untouchables') left out the last line ... when they send one of yours to the morgue, you send a thousand of theirs straight to hell.
"We don't need to be reckless in our resolve, nor fail to remember that they came at us. Measure it right, use overwhelming force and decapitate those sons of b------s once and for all."