Gus Kenworthy
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WATCH: Atlanta Mayor Defends Firing Antigay Fire Chief

WATCH: Atlanta Mayor Defends Firing Antigay Fire Chief

The mayor of Atlanta is refusing to reconsider his decision to fire the city’s fire chief after the senior official published a book that featured antigay, antiwoman, and anti-Semitic statements, despite growing pressure from the religious right, who claim the chief’s dismissal is a result of faith-based discrimination. 

Mayor Kasim Reed announced the termination of former fire chief Kelvin Cochran at a press conference last week, explaining that the chief’s decision to self-publish a book, titled Who Told You That You Were Naked, which equates homosexuality with bestiality and incest, violated the city’s nondiscrimination policy

Reed, a Democrat with a history of supporting LGBT causes, appeared on MSNBC’s NewsNation With Tamron Hall this morning to defend his decision.

Although Reed has consistently said that Cochran’s dismissal was prompted by his failure to obtain departmental approval before publishing the book, Cochran claims otherwise, alleging he has been targeted for his religious beliefs. 

“I am heartbroken that I will no longer be able to serve the city and the people I love as fire chief,” Cochran said in a statement reported on NewsNation. “For no other reason than my Christian faith.”

When Hall asked Reed if Cochran received permission to publish the book, the mayor was unequivocal. 

“He absolutely did not,” Reed said. “I am the chief executive officer of the city of Atlanta, what’s undisputed is that he never discussed this book with me prior to publishing it, nor did he get my permission. He didn’t get the permission from the ethics officer, and he didn’t get permission from the ethics board. … And that’s one of the primary reasons that I made the decision to separate him from the city of Atlanta.”

The mayor reiterated his earlier assertions that Cochran’s dismissal ultimately resulted from the former fire chief’s lack of judgment, including during the city’s investigation, when Cochran allegedly continued promoting the book, even though he and others involved had been asked to keep quiet for the duration of the investigation. Cochran also reportedly gave the book to several employees, some of whom had not requested it.

“Let me lay this out simply,” Reed summarized. “He didn’t get the permission that was needed, he didn’t discuss it with me, and I hired him, at the end of the day, to put out and prevent fires, not to be at the center of one. And the fact that I’m on your show right now is precisely the reason that we require people to get permission before publishing books. He identified himself as the fire chief for the city of Atlanta, and in the past, he has disciplined other members of his staff for support of Chick-fil-A during a controversy in Georgia, and he suspended them for a 30-day period of time.”

The mayor seemed confident that those with all the facts would understand his decision, and noted that by his estimate, 90 percent of the complaints he’s received alleging religious discrimination are coming from people who do not live in the city of Atlanta. Reed also noted that many of Cochran’s most outspoken supporters are political pundits who frequently use religion to justify their anti-LGBT animus, including leader of certified antigay hate group Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, who attended Wednesday’s rally in support of Cochran and can be seen standing behind the former fire chief in the video statement included in Hall’s report. 

Watch the full MSNBC segment below.

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