Levi Pettit, the 20-year-old former University of Oklahoma fraternity member caught on video singing a racist song with other chapter members, apologized Wednesday and said he should have stood up and put a stop to it.
"There are no excuses for my behavior. I never thought of myself as a racist. I never considered it a possibility," Pettit, flanked by clergy and black civic leaders, told reporters at an Oklahoma City church. "But the bottom line is that the words that were said in that chant were mean, hateful and racist.
"I will be deeply sorry and deeply ashamed of what I've done for the rest of my life," he said.
It was the first time Pettit has publicly addressed the scandal. He and other members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter were seen on video chanting racial slurs and referring to lynching while singing about how there would never be an African-American member of the fraternity.
Pettit and another student, Parker Rice, were expelled, and the frat was shut down. Parker has apologized and said the song was "taught to us," sparking questions about whether the song was more widespread.
Pettit would not answer questions about where he and other members of the SAE chapter learned the song.
"I'm not here today to talk about where I learned the chant or how it was taught," he said. "I'm here to apologize for what I did. The truth is that what was said in that chant is disgusting."
The national fraternity condemned the song, dissolved the University of Oklahoma chapter and plans to put its 15,000 student members through diversity training. It is also conducting a review of its 237 chapters to find any instances of similar behavior.
Pettit met with clergy and other members of the black community before making his apology. He said he did not realize how hurtful the words he was seen singing are to African-Americans. "I would do absolutely anything to take it back if I could," he said.
State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, a Democrat representing Oklahoma City, arranged Wednesday's meeting. She said that Pettit texted her to apologize and that she arranged for him to meet with members of the community. "This is just the beginning of a great conversation in our community," she said.
Also Wednesday, an attorney representing members of the University of Oklahoma SAE chapter said the university has agreed that no other students would be expelled over the song. The university said its investigation into the incident is nearly complete and results would be announced Friday.