Kalyn Chapman James, crowned the first black Miss Alabama in 1993, was placed on administrative leave from her job at a local Miami television station after she called the man who fatally shot five police officers in Dallas last week a “martyr.”
In a Facebook Live video on Sunday, a tearful James said she was “torn up” following the shootings deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and discussed the guilt she feels over not mourning the police officers killed in Dallas by former Army Reserve soldier Micah Johnson.
“I don’t feel sad for the officers that lost their lives, and I know that’s not really my heart,” she said. “I value human life and I want to feel sad for them, but I can’t help but feeling like the shooter was a martyr.”
James said she knows the police officers “didn’t deserve to die,” but that she couldn’t help the way she felt. She repeatedly said she does not condone violence.
“I’m so torn up in my heart about seeing these men, these black men, being gunned down in our community that I can’t help but feel like…I wasn’t surprised by what the shooter did to those cops,” she said. “I think a lot of us feel the same way.”
The video sparked immediate controversy, prompting James’s employer and the Miss Alabama organization to distance themselves from her comments.
Without mentioning James by name, WPBT2, a local public television station where James hosts a weekly art program, posted a statement on its Twitter account stating, “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.”
The Miss Alabama Organization President Nan Teninbaum issued a statement saying James’s opinions “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,” Teninbaum said.
James did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment, but wrote a Facebook post on Tuesday reiterating that she is against violence and that she does not consider the shooter a hero.
“I want healing and peace for our nation and it will come when we can process our feelings, address the ones that don’t align with our values (like I did) and reach out for help INSTEAD of causing more conflict or taking innocent lives,” James wrote.
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