Home Waynesboro mayor considers Jim Wood Buttigieg slur matter ‘closed’: But we don’t

Waynesboro mayor considers Jim Wood Buttigieg slur matter ‘closed’: But we don’t

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Photo: Facebook

Waynesboro Mayor Lana Williams is confirming what most of us knew would be the case all along: that Vice Mayor Jim Wood will face no repercussions from City Council over the “ol’ Pete Buttplug” homophobic slur from Wood’s since-deleted Feb. 15 Facebook talk show.

“No action was taken against Vice-Mayor Wood as there is nothing in Virginia law, the City Code, or the City Charter authorizing the Council to take any action other than the statements made by the members of Council. I consider this matter with Vice-Mayor Wood closed,” Williams wrote in an email to the News Leader on Wednesday.

Williams had been one of two members of the City Council to demand that Wood step down as vice mayor in the wake of the slur that he directed at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former Navy intelligence officer who came out as gay in 2015 during his successful run for re-election as mayor of South Bend, Ind.

A third City Council member, Terry Short, demanded that Wood resign his City Council seat.

Wood, who was elected to represent Ward D on City Council in November, defeating incumbent Sam Hostetter by a slim 17-vote margin, has a history of hateful and incendiary comments on podcasts and Facebook shows that he has since scrubbed from the interwebs.

In a Nov. 2 Facebook talk show, Wood asserted that the politically motivated home invasion hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was as a “domestic dispute” perpetrated by “a male prostitute and advocate for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ.”

“Both in their skivvies, and both had a hammer. Nothing to see here. Huh? How about that? Yeah. Yeah. Funny how that works,” Wood said.

Later in his rant on the attack, Wood offered what he called a “dad joke.”

“The best dad joke I’ve heard in a while has been floating around today, said right before that incident, you know, Nancy Pelosi, she texted Paul to say, I hope you’re not drinking and driving. And the reply was, No, I’m just staying at home getting hammered,” Wood said.

A live video posted to Facebook on Jan. 6, 2021, featured Wood offering his thoughts on the attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

“I’m on the side of the patriots who marched on the Capitol today,” he said, adding later, “I wish I could have been there today.”

“I didn’t say we wouldn’t win without violence,” Wood continued in that Jan. 6 video post. “Because I promise you, sometimes it comes to that. Absolutely, it comes to that. Find a way to get myself shut up off of Facebook by promoting violence, but I’ll tell you what, you get to a point where it will happen, it will happen, and it will happen honestly.”

Wood’s slur of Buttigieg aired two days after Wood joined members of City Council in formally approving an effort to lobby the Department of Transportation, headed by Buttigieg, to back a federal grant for a project to connect Waynesboro to the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel.

Wood’s name appeared on a letter signed by Williams addressed to Buttigieg asking the transportation secretary to approve the city’s request for funding from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program to go toward the project.

“As a proud and resilient post-industrial community, the City of Waynesboro is at a crossroads in its examination of the new economy that we must deliver not only for Waynesboro residents, our region, but also for all Virginians,” city leaders wrote to Buttigieg in the letter. “The successful award of the requested RAISE Grant will tremendously assist us in this endeavor, and provide a meaningful transportation option for all Virginians.”

Augusta Free Press was the first to report on the Feb. 15 Facebook talk show slur, the report being published on Feb. 17.

Three days later, on Feb. 20, Wood issued what would amount to his only public comment on the slur.

“I apologize to council, the residents of Waynesboro, and Mr. Buttigieg personally,” Wood said. “I understand that my comment was insensitive and unbecoming of a member of council. I am truly sorry. My priority is to the city of Waynesboro, and I would never intentionally want to have a negative impact on our city, our council, or our citizens. I am proud that we have a very diverse community, and both me and my words need to reflect that in the future.”

Despite claiming in the statement that he wanted to apologize to Buttigieg “personally,” there is no evidence that he actually made an effort to apologize personally to Buttigieg, and in fact, two days after he made that statement, Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, posted to Twitter about Wood, and it wasn’t anything positive.

“His most recent post on Facebook is about Rush Limbaugh. I think we all know where he stands on homophobia,” Chasten Buttigieg wrote in the tweet.

Williams, the mayor, is correct to note that there is nothing in the city code or state law that would give City Council the power to remove Wood from office.

But then, there is nothing in city or state statutes that requires City Council members to attend city functions with Wood, as Williams did last month.

Williams noted at the April 24 City Council meeting that she attended an Economic Development Authority event with Wood.

“Vice Mayor Wood and I had the opportunity to attend the EDA Pitch Night last Monday night, where eight potential small businesses presented plans to be considered for grant funding in front of a panel of judges,” Williams cheerily reported at the opening of the City Council meeting.

This had been Williams back on Feb. 27:

“Such language is unacceptable in any context, and has no place in our city,” Williams said. “As a representative of Waynesboro, he should not be making remarks that are insulting and demeaning. I cannot condone Mr. Wood’s comments in the podcast. Although he was speaking as a private citizen, his comments have a negative impact on the city as residents and Council.

“Council has no legal authority to remove Mr. Wood from office or remove his title. I have, however, heard from many citizens and have discussed amongst Council, who believe it would be in the city’s best interest if Mr. Wood were willing would relinquish his vice mayor title,” Williams said.

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now, that those words were meant to provide cover for Wood and for city leaders who were hoping that the controversy would just blow over.

Williams might consider this matter closed, but we don’t.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].