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Georgia candidate who traveled in "deportation bus" apologizes for campaign

A former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who campaigned in a "deportation bus" and later pleaded guilty to falsely reporting that computer servers were stolen from his office is apologizing for his chaotic and combative campaign. "I want to apologize for any embarrassment or hurt that your support of me has caused," Republican ex-state Sen. Michael Williams wrote Tuesday in a Facebook post.

The post seemed to lay much of the blame for missteps on unnamed campaign advisers, with Williams writing that he was led astray by "pride, ego and bad advice."

"I should not have run for governor or allowed my public persona to be so drastically changed to something it wasn't," he said.

I realize many people have already made up your mind about me; But I also know many of you who supported me are unsure...

Posted by Michael Williams on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Williams' failed bid was marked by strong loyalty to President Trump that saw the candidate embroiled in controversy when he seemingly defended Mr. Trump's over his potential use of a racial epithet, CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV reports. During a CNN interview last year, Williams said it wasn't fair to condemn Mr. Trump for his past actions prior to taking office.

"I would always say using the 'N' word is wrong. It's bad and never accepted in our society. But just because he might have done it years ago, not as our president, doesn't mean we need to continue to berate him," Williams said.

He also gained notoriety for a series of publicity stunts including campaigning in a "deportation bus" in an Atlanta-area community known for welcoming foreign refugees. The back of the bus warned of murderers, rapists, kidnappers and other criminals on board and said, "Follow me to Mexico."

In his apology, Williams didn't specifically mention the bus, but said he let his campaign become "solely about doing whatever needed to be done in order to create headlines to build name ID."

Governor Race-Deportation Bus
Michael Williams, a Georgia gubernatorial candidate touring the state in a "deportation bus," is greeted with protests by immigrants and other residents in Clarkston, Ga., Wednesday, May 16, 2018. AP

Williams finished last in the five-way Republican primary last year.

He was indicted in December in Hall County, northeast of Atlanta, on charges of insurance fraud and lying to investigators. The charges stemmed from an investigation that started after Williams reported a burglary in May 2018 at his campaign office. 

He pleaded guilty in May to falsely reporting computer servers were stolen.

District Attorney Lee Darragh said Williams pleaded guilty under Georgia's First Offender Act and was sentenced to four years' probation, 120 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.

Reached via text Tuesday morning by the AP, Williams confirmed that he authored the Facebook apology and declined to say more.

Michael Williams
Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams seen May 20, 2018, in Atlanta. AP
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