Dennis King says he has done some soul-searching over the last few days about his past comments on Twitter, which some have described as misogynistic and homophobic.
The newly elected Provincial Conservative leader came under fire on Friday after the tweets made headlines.
One of these tweets, from May of 2016, suggested Islanders who shopped at Walmart were inbred. Another compared the play of the Montreal Canadians in May of 2014 to the “philosophy” he “used to get laid at Myrons.” This tweet bore the hashtags #justhangaround and #uglyonescounttoo.
In an interview with the CBC, King said he made the tweets partly because he is a comedian and storyteller. He said his intent was not to offend.
Reached on Tuesday, King offered an unqualified apology.
"I've been through a pretty broad range of emotions on the issue of these tweets over the last few days,” King said.
"I know what I did was wrong. The words were offensive, and for that I'm deeply sorry. They don't represent who I am as a person or what I stand for as a party leader."
King also said he recognized the tweets helped to perpetuate a “culture that we need to change”.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter. I don't want her to be part of a society where this type of behaviour is OK, is the norm. So, I have to take full ownership for that and commit to change it."
It is difficult to tell how much of an impact the tweets have had on the P.E.I. electorate. In Facebook and Twitter conversations, many defended King. Some criticized outlets like the CBC and The Guardian for focusing on King’s online comments, accusing the media outlets of pursuing the story out of partisan bias.
"I hope he wasn't insinuating that we were in-bred or whatever. That wouldn't go over well with me."
-Tignish Mayor Allan McInnis
Allan McInnis, the mayor of Tignish, said he sympathized with King. But he also told The Guardian he was not a fan of a past tweet by King that related to his town.
The tweet, which was a reply to a November 2014 conversation, says “when you marry her she isn’t your cousin anymore #tignishrules.”
"I hope he wasn't insinuating that we were in-bred or whatever. That wouldn't go over well with me," McInnis said.
McInnis added that he wasn’t sure whether the tweets would affect how he voted in the next election.
“I vote for the man that's running in the district that I think is going to make the best of our district and take our district serious," he said.
Stephanie Arnold, a grad student in her mid-30s, said she hasn’t written off King as a result of his comments, but will be scrutinizing candidates from his party more closely.
“The current changes in the political climate had prompted me to put more focus on character of the individual,” Arnold told The Guardian.
“I would rather have someone with sound judgment and high moral character represent me, even if we disagree on some policies, than have someone I cannot respect who happens to agree with me on many policies.”
For the Record
Throughout the 1990s, King was a reporter and columnist with the Eastern Graphic. From spring of 1995 to winter 1996, he wrote an opinion column, known as ‘The Male Box.’ The column was described as “a light hearted look at life from a male perspective.”
Although the columns were written more than 20 years ago, they refer often to King’s self-described propensity to say or do things for questionable reasons.
Below are a few excerpts from King’s columns.
“Men should all carry cards in their pockets. On the cards should be a check mark – yes this man can tell a joke or no, run! So, if somebody asks you if you heard the one about the black man, the Jew and the white supremacist, you can just ask to see his card before giving your answer. Hey, it could work!”
“I like those macho-type guys on today’s sitcoms. Guys like Coach Hayden Fox and Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor are an inspiration to me because they seem to be able to always reflect on what a man is thinking. And often times, they say things in those shows that everybody laughs at and all women frown upon, but they happen to be true.”
“The night Ben Johnson won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics, a group of friends and I were gulping down rum and cokes and chanting Ben, Ben, Ben. By the time he crossed the finish line, there wasn’t a sober man in the house. The next day, when every Canadian was beaming about the big win, those same friends were talking about the considerably less amount of hair I had on a certain part of my body. The area directly below my navel turnout out to be as tarnished as Ben’s gold medal!”
“As much as I like to defend the actions of a man, I just can’t come up with a good reason why we do such stupid things…I also realize that I’m doing something really stupid by writing this column, but that’s just par for the course isn’t it?”