PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - A picture taken of a Philadelphia firefighter is causing controversy. Tonight, while some are calling the photo insensitive and racist the firefighter himself is apologizing for what he calls a very bad joke.
"I am very disappointed in myself and I'm very sorry."
John Deluisi says he was drunk when he snapped a photo and tagged an African American co-worker at the Philadelphia Fire Department. The photo shows Deluisi with a burning tiki torch, wearing confederate flag hat and a caption saying headed to Virginia.
The post comes just days after images of Charlottesville as the city erupted in violence between neo-Nazi white nationalists and protesters.
"You know I was drinking way too much. It was on my back deck and me and we joke back and forth and it was just a stupid dumb joke," Deluisi told FOX 29.
Deluisi says the picture was all a bad joke. He says he was responding to another post referencing Charlottesville. He also admits it went too far. It has since been taken down. But not before offending many residents who pay Deluisi's salary.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney calls the post "deeply disturbing."
The Philadelphia Fire Department tell us it's launched an investigation that could result in disciplinary action. As for Deluisi, he's afraid the post will effect his nearly 20 years as a career firefighter.
"I am and idiot. I am very sorry. Maybe I get too carried away on Facebook and I put something up there that is stupid. I thought he would get a joke about it. I really did it was very stupid," Deluisi said.
Fire Commissioner Adam K. Thiel released a statement regarding the photo Tuesday morning:
"I recently learned of a reprehensible social media post that originated with a Philadelphia Fire Department member. I am utterly horrified and disgusted by the content of this post. Racist images, symbols, words and actions are contrary to our mission and values and have absolutely no place in our Department. We will take swift and decisive personnel action after a full investigation. The Department will follow-up with intensive and focused workplace conduct training for our more than 2,600 members. While I am disappointed by this event, I know this individual's behavior does not represent the values, dedication and service of our entire Department. We will continue working 24x7x365 to ensure the safety of all city residents."