Wildwood mayor wants controversial Kate Smith statue if available

WILDWOOD, N.J. (WPVI) -- The controversial Kate Smith statue could soon be coming to Wildwood.

"If it's available we would be interested in having it," said Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. in a phone interview with Action News. "The outcry of the people has piqued my interest."

The Kate Smith statue was taken down over the weekend at the Wells Fargo Center amid allegations of racism against the 1930s star with a popular recording of "God Bless America."

The mayor's comments come as some sports teams, including the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Flyers, have stopped playing Smith's version of the song amid conflicting claims about several of her tunes, including her 1939 hit "That's Why the Darkies Were Born."

One of those songs is considered by some to be satirical. It was also sung by Philadlephia singer and activist Paul Robeson.

The mayor says the fact Robeson recorded it as well proves Smith's intentions.

"She did a lot for this country. I don't think she is this evil monster people believe her to be," said Troiano.

But Mayor Troiano says the song, which is traditionally played each day on the boardwalk during the summer, will still be heard.

"One hundred fifty percent yes, we are playing the song," the mayor says.

The mayor says he's taking a stand against a politically correct culture given too much power.

"I can't hold somebody accountable for something that was done in permissive time 88 years ago. If that was the case, then the next thing attacked is going to be the Declaration of Independence. That was written by a slave owner," he says.

Just about everyone Action News spoke to sides with mayor, that's includes Stanely Stull who is an African American. He says people need to move on.

"Look past what happened in the 30s. If we stay in the 30s then we'll be in the 30s," said Stull.

A Chester family of Sicklerville comes to Wildwood a few times each year. They too are African American.

They say if the Smith statue is here that won't change.

"I hope we've learned from our prejudgment and the racism that we were brought up in and a culture. Lets hope we've become one nation. One people," said Sherrie Chester.

Action News has reached out to the Wells Fargo Center regarding Wildwood obtaining the statue but we have not heard back.
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