FLEMINGTON, NJ - Comments delivered by State Sen. Michael Doherty, R-23, during the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony on the steps of the Historic Hunterdon County Courthouse on Flemington’s Main Street have been scrutinized and reacted to from a broad audience.

Doherty used the 9/11 ceremony, 19 years after the terrorist attacks, as a platform to present his views on national social issues, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement as "Marxist" and "burning cities down." With reactions to his words piling up on social media, Doherty’s statements ended up adding fuel on an open fire, and he said any declaration of the United States as having a history of systemic racism was an "evil lie."

The county freeholders offered some response to the controversy following Doherty’s remarks Tuesday. First, Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren denounced racism in all its forms, a point he’s reiterated at board meetings since the killing of George Floyd and the social demonstrations that followed.

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“This past Friday, we came together on 9/11 to remember the fallen, police officers, firefighters, first responders and citizens at-large, including our 16 Hunterdon County residents who lost their lives on that fateful day,” he said. “At the ceremony, in expressing his support for our law enforcement community, many of whom lost their lives on 9/11, State Sen. Doherty shared his opinions. Everyone has the ability to state their opinions, as this is one of the things that makes our country one of the greatest on earth, one where we have freedom of expression.”

“And I am sure everyone has opinions on the topics he discussed, including racism,” he added. “I denounce racism in all forms, as I have in the past, as racism is wrong and immoral, and it sickens me that we continue to see racism in the year 2020.”

Van Doren said people seem to have forgotten the reason they come together each year at the 9/11 remembrance ceremonies, “to remember all those who lost their lives or remember those who lost a friend, colleague or neighbor.”

“All of us are, in some way, connected,” he said.

Van Doren urged Hunterdon County’s population to recall this shared humanity, put all differences aside and to work together for a better good in society.

Freeholder J. Matthew Holt spoke about his sentiments when considering 9/11.

“Sheriff (Fred) Brown’s heart and soul go into his county sheriff’s Department, his job and every year into this 9/11 Rememberance Ceremony by the County,” he said. “He is a lifetime law enforcement individual, dedicated to his career, and there’s nobody finer. When you talk to Sheriff Brown he will remind you that none of us will ever forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 with the bravery of so many people and first responders, the tragic loss of life as they ran toward this catastrophe.”
Holt said he wanted to remind the public of some situations America and the world has been through.

“I tend to focus on two other days, Sept. 10, 2001, with our 16 county residents who spent their last 24 hours with their family or friends, wherever,” he said. “I think about the 3,500 people who did the same thing, not all of them Americans, but folks from every country that suffered a loss related to 9/11. I wonder if these people did have their greatest days on Sept. 10, and I always hope that when the time comes for me, that I had my greatest day that day before and that I’d have no regrets.”

“Then, I always think about the impacts felt Sept. 12, 2001, I do not ever forget that feeling,” he added. “We were America first, as Americans we joined together, and we were proud. We were shocked at the attacks and what followed, and yet we knew that we as a nation would overcome. We stick together as a country.”