Oklahoma student who led racist chant publicly apologizes

Surrounded by several black leaders, Levi Pettit, center, a former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video leading a racist chant, publicly apologizes during a news conference at Fairview Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. At left is Oklahoma state Senator Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. At right is Fairview Baptist Church Pastor J.A. Reed. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video leading a racist chant said Wednesday he’s deeply sorry for his role in the incident and upset and embarrassed that he failed to stop it.

Flanked by several black Oklahoma City community leaders, including pastors and civil rights activists, Levi Pettit publicly apologized following a meeting he had with civic leaders at a Baptist Church on the city’s predominantly black northeast side.

“Some have wondered why I hadn’t spoken out publicly. The truth is I have had a mix of pain, shame, sorrow and fear over the consequences of my actions,” said Pettit, whose voice quivered slightly as he spoke. “I did not want to apologize to the press or to the whole country until I first came to apologize to those most directly impacted.”

Pettit and several other members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the university were caught on video engaging in the chant that referenced lynching and used a racial slur to describe how African-Americans would never become members.

Pettit answered a few questions from reporters but declined to say who taught him the chant or where he learned it.

“The truth is what was said in that chant is disgusting … and after meeting with these people I’ve learned these words should never be repeated,” Pettit said.

State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, who coordinated Wednesday’s meeting after Pettit reached out to her, said she believes Pettit’s apology is genuine and she has forgiven him.

“I admire his courage of reaching out to me and saying: ‘I want to meet with you face to face and apologize to you directly,'” said Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “I believe he is sincere.”

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Follow Sean Murphy at http://www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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