Stitt, a Republican, said he has ordered the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to “initiate an investigation to determine whether any illegal conduct has occurred.” [Representational image] Oscar Wong/Gettyimages

The sheriff of a rural county in Oklahoma, along with other high-ranking officials, were recorded discussing "beating, killing, and burying" a father-and-son reporting team, as well as lamenting that they could no longer hang Black people with a "damned rope."

The governor of Oklahoma has demanded their resignation.

Following the McCurtain County Gazette-News' publication of an article over the weekend describing what was captured on the recording, Gov. Kevin Stitt demanded the resignations of the sheriff of McCurtain County, Kevin Clardy, county commissioner Mark Jennings, sheriff's investigator Alicia Manning, and jail administrator Larry Hendrix.

"I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County," Stitt said in a statement released Sunday, Apr. 16.

"There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office."

Republican Stitt declared that he has directed the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to "initiate an investigation to determine whether any illegal conduct has occurred."

Bruce Willingham, who works for his family-owned newspaper, has turned the full audio over to the FBI and the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, his lawyers said.

None of the four officials named by Stitt could be reached for comment, but late Monday, Apr. 17, the McCurtain County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that the recording was "illegally obtained," appears to have been altered, and may have been produced in violation of state law prohibiting secret recordings by third parties, NBC News reported.

According to the newspaper, the latest controversy started when Willingham, acting on information that the commissioners were improperly doing county business after the public meetings were completed, left a recording device in the commissioners' chamber on Mar. 6.

A complaint was also filed against Clardy, Manning, and the commissioners in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma earlier that day by Willingham's son, Christopher Lee Willingham, who works as a reporter for the newspaper.

He stated that by spreading "slander" about him, they were punishing him for his incisive reporting.

When Willingham retrieved the device, he discovered that the conversation began with a grisly conversation about a fire victim being compared to "barbecue" before the group turned to talk about his son.

The newspaper claimed in the first batch of tapes it released that there was also "caustic" criticism of the local district attorney Mark Matloff.

At the McCurtain County Courthouse, a member of Matloff's staff stated that he was not commenting on the report.

According to Willingham's attorneys, two more sets of his recordings will shortly be made available.

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