- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The East Texas firefighter who was terminated for a Facebook comment that appeared to show him praising the Charleston church shooter said his words were taken completely out of context and now his future is ruined because of it.

Kurtis Cook, a former Mabank volunteer firefighter, wrote, “He needs to be praised for the good deed he has done,” on a South Carolina newspaper’s Facebook page about a story on last week’s massacre at a black church in Charleston, a local ABC affiliate reported.

The post was widely circulated on social media, with users pressuring the fire department to sever ties with Mr. Cook. On Friday, the Mabank Fire Department announced on Facebook that the veteran firefighter of 23 years had been terminated.

Mr. Cook said the department made a hasty decision and didn’t bother to investigate the context in which his comments were made.

“When I was looking at the threads and, you know, I was just reading down and there was a person there that posted, was donating a large sum of money to the victims, so I just said ‘This person ought to be praised for his good deed,’” Mr. Cook told ABC.

The screenshot of the post that went viral did not show any of the previous comments, and users assumed Mr. Cook was praising alleged gunman Dylann Roof.

“Making me look like I’m standing with this comment, like I’m supporting this Dylann guy, and I would never do that. I’m not racist, never been racist,” Mr. Cook said.

The Mabank fire chief said when confronted with the post, Mr. Cook did not deny it and resigned without objection.

“They were getting so much pressure over there that I just went ahead and just let them go ahead and resign me, or terminate me, so they could go ahead and move on with the fire department,” Mr. Cook said.

But the backlash was swift, and now he and his family are preparing to move out of the area due to threats, ABC reported.

“And now I’ll never be a fireman again. I’m going to lose my full-time job and I’m going to have to relocate,” Mr. Cook said tearfully. “I’m not trying to just ‘do damage control.’ I’m just telling you the side of the story where I came from on this.”

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