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Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Kevin Cunnane. Provided

Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Kevin Cunnane hurled a vulgar, gender-based insult at one of his constituents in a private message this week, prompting some residents to call for his resignation and question his professionalism.

Cunnane, an attorney who was elected in February, apologized Thursday for the message he fired off Tuesday night to constituent Barry Wolff.

The comment came after Wolff publicly questioned whether Cunnane was invoking his service during the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks for political gain.

"I unequivocally apologize for what I said," Cunnane told The Post and Courier. "But at my core I am a fighter, and when I'm attacked, I respond. Did I do it appropriately? No. I fight for what’s right. That’s the takeaway."

The spat started with a since-deleted Facebook post.

"As much as it hurts to me to say this, and I hope I'm wrong, it has become something that looks like you searching for validation for yourself," Wolff wrote of Cunnane in the post.

Cunnane was a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department and responded when the Twin Towers were attacked. He frequently posts about the tragedy, especially around the anniversary, which is why Cunanne said he became angry when he saw Wolff questioning his motives.

Moments later, Wolff said, Cunnane replied publicly to his post with, "Really?"

Then, Wolff said Cunnane sent a string of private messages.

"I can post whatsoever I want you (expletive)" Cunnane wrote, typing the derogatory term to women in all-caps. "And I will continue to do so," he continued, adding, "Especially if it pisses you off."

Wolff said he took a screenshot of the messages he received from Cunnane that night.

While campaign documents show Wolff gave $150 to Cunnane in his run for council, Wolff said he felt compelled to post the image publicly on his personal Facebook page Wednesday night. 

"It was alarming to me," Wolff said. "I wrestled with letting it go, but I couldn't in clear conscience do that. The people have the right to know who they are dealing with, and the character of who they are dealing with."

The post of the screenshot, which Wolff made public, has since begun circulating on social media.

Mayor Will Haynie saw the post and said he was deeply offended by it, calling it "a sad day for Mount Pleasant."

"It is beneath the dignity of the office in the town of Mount Pleasant, and it certainly warrants an apology, not only to the citizen but to the Mount Pleasant citizenry at large," Haynie said. "An elected official, no matter how emotional the issue, should not result to personal name-calling with one of their constituents."

Last year, Town Council adopted a Code of Conduct for elected and appointed officials. The code is self-imposed.

"Members shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charges or verbal attacks upon the character or motives of other Members, the staff or public," one tenet of the Code of Conduct reads.

Cunnane said there is no excuse for his behavior but won't resign. He also doubled down in calling for civility.

"Some people think that an elected official should be able to take a beating from constituents, and I think to a certain degree we must," he said. "But there are some things where you just have to stand up for what you believe."

The same day Cunnane lobbed the insult at a constituent was the same day he urged the planning committee meeting for the National Medal of Honor Museum in Mount Pleasant to "move past the name-calling and the nonsense and get this thing done."

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.