Photo of General Lee car on CK councillor's Facebook page causes a stir

A Chatham-Kent resident has made a complaint to his municipality's CAO over a councillor's Facebook post that showed a General Lee toy car on his basement mantle — but the councillor who shared the photo says it's just a childhood toy and he never meant any offence.

Councillor Trevor Thompson says context is important, and that the car is simply a childhood toy

This is the photo Trevor Thompson originally posted on Facebook back in February, which led to a resident making a complaint with the municipality's CAO. (Trevor Thompson/Facebook)

A Chatham-Kent resident has made a complaint to his municipality's CAO over a councillor's Facebook post that showed photo of a General Lee toy car on his mantle — but the councillor who shared the photo said it's just a childhood toy and he never meant any offence.

General Lee is the name of the iconic '69 Dodge Charger from the television series Dukes of Hazzard.

Ward 2 councillor Trevor Thompson said he originally shared the photo back in February to show a railroad spike that sits on his mantle. Also seen in the photo is the toy-sized car, which has a C onfederate flag on its roof. It was the sight of the flag that stunned Craig McNeill.

"I'm appalled by it," McNeill said.

"I know what the Confederate flag symbolizes in the modern day. An image that racists, white supremacists use, and definitely shouldn't be in our society, especially not an elected official posting something like that."

Context is important, Thompson explained

McNeill said that when he first saw the photo on Facebook, he messaged Thompson directly to let him know the image might offend some people, in the hopes that the photo would be deleted. Thompson acknowledged that there was a Confederate flag displayed on the car, but did not take further action. 

So McNeill took his complaint to the CAO. 

Dukes of Hazzard stars John Schneider, Catherine Bach, Tom Wopat sit on the show's iconic '69 Dodge Charger, The General Lee, during a promotional photocall for a 1997 Dukes of Hazzard reunion. (Getty Images)

When Thompson heard a complaint had been made, he said he was surprised someone would take issue with it, explaining the photo was taken in the wrong context.

"I don't want to be viewed in that light, and if I made a comment or shared a picture that could be viewed in that light, that's not what I want for my family, for myself, or for Chatham-Kent for that matter," said Thompson.

The General Lee toy car sits on Councillor Trevor Thompson's mantle in his basement. he said he's had the toy for decades. (Trevor Thompson/Facebook)

"I believe my record stands for itself, being the councillor that brought forward the initiative to make Chatham-Kent a welcoming community. [I've been] very, very supportive of the refugee efforts and Syrian efforts here in Chatham-Kent."

He grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard

Councillor Trevor Thompson says because at this point in time, the complaint is only coming from one individual, he doesn't feel it necessary to remove the photos from his social media. (Chatham-Kent Website)

Thompson explained that as a child of the 1980s, he grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard, and that the toy is something he's had for decades. 

Once he learned of the complaint, he took to Facebook again. This time, asking his online community if anyone had a problem with the photo. Most of the comments in the thread did not indicate that there was an issue.

Thompson said he re-shared the photo to get a sense of whether or not he had crossed a line or had made a mistake.

"If people had reached out and said, 'You know what, Trevor, the world has moved on, that is no longer acceptable,' then I would have offered an apology — I still would, and removed the photos from my social media," said Thompson, adding that because there was only one complaint from one individual, he didn't feel taking down the photo was necessary. 

"In this business, you can't apologize for everything that might upset one person somewhere."

Councillor says he never meant to upset anyone

Thompson acknowledged the negative historical implications that come with the Confederate flag. He added that he has been supportive of the removal of the Confederate flag from outside Capitol buildings and the removal of the statues of General Lee in the United States. 

He stresses that in this case, context is important.

"It's unfortunate that I caused somebody any sort of frustration, disappointment, or concern. Never my intent," said Thomspon. "But again, it's a child's toy on a mantle in my basement that is in millions of homes across the country in regards to a beloved television show from the '80s."

A 1969 Dodge Charger, dubbed The General Lee from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, is displayed during the 37th Annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Cars auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, 16 January 2008. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

"I don't believe at this point that a child's toy in my basement carries the same connotations as flying a flag or a symbol of such terrible racism outside anywhere or at a public building."

McNeill says he plans on taking his complaint further, to the integrity commissioner.


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