A social media post by a Lewes firefighter featuring an anti-gay slur has upset many in the Cape Region and beyond.
Bill Henry Buckaloo, who has held several leadership positions with the Lewes Fire Department, attended a drag show Nov. 15 at Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach. While there, he posted on Facebook, “The [stuff] I get talked into … Matt talked us to go to a faggot show.”
A screenshot of the now-deleted post was shared by many in the hours after.
The show was hosted by entertainer Magnolia Applebottom, who holds a live show every Sunday. The social media post quickly found its way to Applebottom.
“[He] thought it was OK to go to a gay owned and operated establishment and go to a show hosted and produced by an award winning gay entertainer and use that F word on social media,” Applebottom wrote on Instagram. “Your job is to protect the people in our community, not bring us down. Do better! Be better!”
More than 80 people commented on Applebottom’s post, all offering support.
Lewes Fire Department spokesman Glenn Marshall said Buckaloo has been suspended and removed as assistant fire chief, a volunteer position. The fire department’s disciplinary committee will review the incident and recommend action to the department’s president.
“While he was not representing the department at the time, it obviously reflects back on the department and the town itself,” Marshall said. “We do not tolerate this.”
The department has a social media policy, Marshall said, and they’re mandated by the state to provide everyone working with the department with harassment training.
Buckaloo apologized for his behavior in a Facebook post Nov. 16.
“I made an inappropriate comment last night on a post,” Buckaloo said in a Facebook post Nov. 16. “I want to sincerely apologize for my distasteful choice of words. I definitely displayed a lack of good character and judgment. I offended a lot of people including myself. I have no excuse whatsoever. I am truly sorry for all the harm I have caused.”
Many members of the community have called on Lewes Fire Department cut ties with Buckaloo, including Mitch Case, whose parents live in Lewes.
“As a gay man whose parents reside in Lewes, I’m disgusted,” he said in an email to the Cape Gazette. “To live in a community known for its acceptance of LGBTQ people and to use language like this in the year 2020 is truly disgraceful. [Assistant] Chief Buckaloo should be fired immediately.”
Lewes Mayor Ted Becker urged the department to take swift action.
“We’ve had a longterm relationship with the department and it’s generally been positive,” he said. “This was an intolerable message that was sent out.”
Even though the department is independent of the city government, mayor and city council traditionally provides a sizable donation to the department. In speaking with many members of the public Nov. 16, Becker said, he’s been urged to reconsider funding.
Marshall said the department has heard similar comments regarding citizen donations to the department. The goal now, he said, is to restore the department’s standing with the community.
The department has already reached out to CAMP Rehoboth and Blue Moon about creating a setting where membership or leadership can speak and answer any questions to assure the community that it does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race or religion.
Part-time fire department employee David Hodges, who is openly gay, says Buckaloo’s comments are not indicative of a culture within the organization.
“I have worked hundreds of hours with both the volunteer side and the paid staff,” he wrote in an open letter. “They are no less than family to me. I have been ‘out’ since before becoming part of this department and I have never experienced anything but respect and acceptance from every member. That includes several occasions where I was around Bill Buckaloo. I plan to remain a part of this family as much as possible, and while I cannot tell anyone what is in anyone’s heart, I can say that forgiveness and understanding is what our country needs most right now.”
Blue Moon addressed the incident in a Facebook post Nov. 16.
“For nearly 40 years, the Blue Moon has been an icon for inclusivity. Welcoming everyone and treating our guests, staff and entertainers with respect. As the foremost entertainment venue in Rehoboth, we are known worldwide for the quality of our shows and entertainers. Our resident entertainers are talented, skilled and professional. We are deeply offended when a member of our family is disrespected. Unfortunately in today’s world there are those who fail to realize their words are often an outward expression of their own insecurities. We won’t tolerate hate within our walls and condemn anyone who demoralizes another person, especially a member of the Blue Moon family, either in person or virtually.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new information.