Steve Tilley, House Speaker of Missouri, has been receiving criticisms and threats this week for his remarks regarding flooding the impoverished town of Cairo, Illinois.
Tilley’s comments were in response to a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to breach a levee on the Mississippi River in order to keep floodwaters at bay. The Army Corps Plan would flood about 130,000 acres of Missouri farmlands, but it would also ensure that Cairo does not go underwater.
Tilley was asked on Tuesday if he would rather see the farmland or the small, predominately black town underwater.
“Cairo. I’ve been there, trust me. Cairo. Have you been there? Ok, then you know what I’m saying then,” he remarked.
Cairo is a town of 2,800 people. It is two thirds African-American and nearly 50 percent of its children live below the poverty line.
In response to these comments, Tilley has received threats and had a Capital security guard stationed outside his office on Thursday as a precaution.
He has now issued an apology.
“In a recent interview, I was asked about a proposal that would blow up a dam in Missouri and impact Mississippi County and Cairo, Illinois. As the speaker of the Missouri House I came to the defense of Missouri, but in doing so I said some inappropriate and hurtful comments about the community of Cairo. I first want to apologize for my insensitive remark and personally apologize to anyone that I offended,” said Tilley.
Tilley has not been the only elected official to disapprove of the plan to flood parts of southeastern Missouri. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon warned, “Intentionally breaching this levee would be an inappropriate action.”