(NORMAN, Okla.) — Former University of Oklahoma student and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity member Levi Pettit offered a public apology on Wednesday for his role in leading the racist chants that were captured on video earlier this month.
“Let me start by saying I’m sorry, deeply sorry. I’m so sorry for the pain that I’ve caused and I want you to hear that directly from me. Even though I don’t deserve it I would like to ask for your forgiveness,” Pettit said, standing beside about a dozen community leaders.
In front of reporters on Wednesday, Pettit read from a letter he had written to university President Dave Boren shortly after the video was posted online. In the letter, he acknowledged that while he had “never thought of myself as a racist and never even considered it a possibility,” the words he uttered “were mean, hateful and racist.”
Pettit said that he has since met with student leaders in an effort to apologize for his actions.
“I’m so sorry for all the pain that I’ve caused,” Pettit said, “and I want you all to know that directly from me.”
Speaking at a Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Pettit declined to discuss where he had first heard the racist chant or what had specifically happened on the bus.
State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, a Democrat, University of Oklahoma alum and chairwoman of the Oklahoma Black Caucus, hosted the press conference at Oklahoma City’s Fairview Baptist Church, The Dallas Morning News reported. Before the event, Pettit was expected to spend an hour behind closed doors with pastors, politicians and African-American community leaders, according to the newspaper.
“I received an apology from him, and I believe it’s sincere,” Pittman told The Dallas Morning News. “But I told him it’s not about me, and that community leaders would need the same courtesy, so if he’s going to apologize to me, I’d rather he apologize to civic leaders, pastors, people who resonate with the pain.”
Pittman did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
Pettit and one other member of the SAE fraternity were expelled earlier this month after video of them leading the racist chant on a party bus appeared online. The video, posted by a group describing itself as “an alliance of Black students organized for change within campus administration and atmosphere,” showed students chanting “there will never be a [racial epithet] at SAE.”
When asked by reporters if he knew the meaning of the words, Pettit said, “I knew they were wrong, but I didn’t know how or why they were wrong.”
“I’m not here to talk about the chant or where I heard it,” Pettit said. “The truth of the matter is that the chant is disgusting.”
The university expelled two students on March 10 in connection with the incident. A university spokesman, Corbin Wallace, told ABC News Wednesday that the university can’t specify the students’ names, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The university, according to Wallace, declined to comment about Wednesday’s press conference. The university’s investigation is still ongoing regarding the incident.
Brandon Weghorst, a spokesman for the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon organization, said all of the University of Oklahoma members are still suspended and awaiting hearings by the national organization, which disbanded that chapter.
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