Calls for Mark Shull’s resignation are coming from leaders in Clackamas County, from its more urban neighbor, Multnomah County, the Muslim civil rights organization CAIR-Oregon, and Wednesday evening, the Portland City Council. The uproar follows revelations of statements Shull made on social media espousing anti-Islamic and xenophobic views, compiled on a blog and first reported by Pamplin Media.
In a statement from just over a year ago in Jan. 2020, Shull equated Islam to radical terrorism saying “Isis is Islam. Islam is ISIS.” From a few months earlier, in Nov. 2019, Shull wrote “the most menacing threat to US national security is the incursion of Islam into our society.” Shull’s xenophobic comments included an anti-immigrant Facebook post, saying “Many of these new, belligerent, non integrating immigrants do not accept our culture.”
Since word of the social media posts surfaced Wednesday, calls have been growing for Shull to resign from office.
“We are disappointed to see that Commissioner Shull cannot differentiate between valid information and conspiracy theories,” read a statement from CAIR-Oregon board member Sahar Muranovic. “Those conspiracy theories jeopardize community members’ lives. Thus, we are calling for Mark Shull to resign from office.”
In a statement to Pamplin Media, Shull apologized for his social media posts and attempted to emphasize that they were in the past.
“I apologize for any concerns in the community related to my comments years ago about problems with integration of Islam into western society,” Shull said. “I respect the freedom of religion that extends to members of the Islamic community, as well as to all religious beliefs. I will work towards increasing understanding and cooperation amongst all new immigrants to our nation and to our county.”
But Shull’s apology hasn’t stopped calls for his resignation. Elected officials have also joined the push for Shull to resign, including Multnomah County commissioner Susheela Jayapal, who immigrated from India to the US as a teenager before becoming a lawyer and elected official.
“This is not an issue of a questionable statement here or there. This is a history of expressing views that are abhorrent and antithetical to the values of this country and our state, and are dangerous. The events of last week make this crystal clear,” Jayapal said.
“Mr. Shull should resign, immediately.”
The entire Multnomah County board of commissioners joined Jayapal in taking the rare step of calling for the resignation of an elected commissioner in a neighboring county.
“The Multnomah County board of commissioners can not in good faith work with a commissioner who has so openly demonstrated views and values that run counter to those of safety, equality and inclusion for all residents,” read the joint statement.
Wednesday evening, the Portland city council also released a statement, signed by all five commissioners, saying it “joins the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in calling for Shull to resign immediately.”
“Portland is committed to working with our neighboring counties and cities in creating a more inclusive Oregon,” the Portland statement continued. “We have a responsibility to hold each other accountable to this goal and to take action when there is injustice. Following last weeks armed insurrection attempt in Washington D.C., this accountability is more important than ever.”
Shull is also facing pressure from members of his own board, including Clackamas County commissioner Sonya Fischer.
“The deeply hurtful and racist statements you repeatedly shared over the past year and a half are emblematic of today’s politics of hate and division,” Fischer said. “We cannot move forward as a country or as a community until people are held accountable for their actions.”
While county boards are officially non-partisan, when Shull, a Republican, was elected to his Clackamas County seat in November, he unseated incumbent Democrat Ken Humberston, and shifted the balance of power in county government to the right. However, one of the latest people to seek distance from the new commissioner is fellow Republican and recently-elected county chair, Tootie Smith.
“I want to assure residents that I in no way condone or agree with these offensive statements. They do not reflect my values. Such statements are an attack on human dignity and have no place in government,” Smith said.
Smith’s statement went on to endorse a county resolution condemning violence and racism, passed before she was in office, but she did not directly call for Shull’s resignation.