Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell apologizes for calling Planned Parenthood opponents ‘forces of darkness’

May 18, 2012

By Matt Vande Bunte,

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Confronted with an onslaught of criticism tonight from city residents, Mayor George Heartwell publicly apologized for labeling “ultraconservative” political and religious people as “forces of darkness” during a speech last week at a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan.

“My comments were terribly insensitive and I regret them, and to those that I hurt I deeply apologize,” Heartwell interjected during a public comment period near the end of tonight’s City Commission meeting.

Heartwell’s comments last week at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park sparked objection from many MLive commenters. Heartwell said he also received e-mails from around the country, some labeling him as a demonic force and others offering to pray for him.

Tonight, several residents identified themselves as Heartwell’s “forces of darkness” and cautioned the ordained minister to rethink his perspective on Planned Parenthood. He was criticized for speaking at a Planned Parenthood function, and one resident questioned Heartwell’s spiritual convictions.

“You’re messing with God himself,” said Grand Rapids resident Barb Hickedy. “Be careful what holy ground you may be walking on or desecrating.”

Some speakers thanked Heartwell for his apology, while adding their disappointment with his comments.

“Anybody else want to beat up on the mayor tonight?” Heartwell asked at one point during the public comment period.

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