BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Former staffers from Assemblyman Patrick Burke’s office are coming forward, saying they were fired this week for calling on the lawmakers to speak out against Saturday’s racist massacre.

“We stood up for what we believed in and we lost our jobs because of it,” said Matthew Dearing, Burke’s former director of community relations.

The group said Burke initially planned to speak out against the shooting and white replacement theory, referenced by the suspect in his racist diatribe, on the Assembly floor.

“His tone was pretty harsh and energetic,” said Brendan Keany, former communications director.

But within a matter of hours, they say he seemed to change his mind.

“The direct quote was, ‘I’m not giving up my seat for this issue,'” Dearing said.

But Burke is calling these claims completely off base. In a statement, he said he has a long history of speaking out against white supremacy.

Burke also tweeted an article from The Buffalo News Wednesday, and said “investigating and rooting out extremism from every level of our government must be done.”

His former staffers tell News 4 a tweet is not enough.

“With anyone not doing anything, especially this close to the issue, is just astounding and deplorable,” said Nicole Golias, a former legislative director. “I don’t think we could live with ourselves if we didn’t say this is what’s right, and this is what we need to do.”

Assemblyman Burke released a statement Saturday in response to the former staffers’ accusations.

In a discussion with these staffers, I found their accusations bizarre, offensive, and completely off base considering my long history of speaking out against white supremacy and my actions and statements over the past week. It was clear that they no longer believed in me or the decisions I make. I cannot retain a staff that I no longer trust or that no longer trust me and had to make the difficult decision to fire them.”

NYS Assemblyman Patrick Burke

Burke’s office also sent News 4 record of his past denouncements of white supremacy, in two articles from July 2016 written by the Buffalo News and WBFO, as well as footage from a statement he made this past Tuesday.

Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.