ARKANSAS CITY, Kan – The mayor of a Kansas town issued an apology Thursday for appearing as a drag-queen in blackface last weekend as part of a fundraising event, according to the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Arkansas City Mayor Mel Kuhn participated in and won a drag queen contest held as part of an annual fund raiser sponsored by Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), an agency that supports foster children in the court system.
Kuhn appeared dressed as a character which he called “Smellishis Poon,” with his face painted dark for the event.
But Kuhn told FOXNews.com that he was not in blackface, but in "tanface," and did not intend to offend anyone.
"Blackface is shoepolish," he said. "That's not what I did. I dressed up to win and because it was so hilarious."
According to the NAACP, he also had suggestive back-up dancers for the talent portion of his performance, which he called the “Red Hot Puntangs.”
"We danced to black music. The Weather Girls and Aretha Franklin," Kuhn told FOXNews.com.
Kuhn said he got the idea from the popular movie "Norbit," a controversial comedy starring Eddie Murphy, which some critics have decried as racist toward African Americans.
While he won the award that night for the “most creative talent,” several local residents found the performance to be insulting and racially offensive, the Arkansas City Traveler reported.
Kuhn initially defended his actions, saying he originally meant to portray an “over-the-top woman," and that he didn’t care what people thought.
But he changed his tune on Wednesday, following a meeting with the NAACP. In a written statement, he claimed full responsibility for his actions and said he “sincerely apologized” for their “offensive nature.”
“It has been brought to my attention how offensive this was and I absolutely agree that it was shortsighted of me not to see that in the first place,” the statement said.
Still, he said he was never nervous that people would be offended by his skit and that it was not meant to be hurtful to anyone.
Instead, he said, painting his face and portraying a black woman "was the best way to win."
"I had to make it as fun as possible," he told FOXNews.com. "That was the best way I could think of to make as many people laugh as possible and raise money for this charity"
Kuhn added that he was saddened that the event had been "blown so out of proportion," by the local media and bloggers.
"I am the mayor of a small town in Kansas," Kuhn told FOXNews.com. "We are poor people, but we don't have poor ways. To paint me as a racist is just not right."
"No one has come up to me and complained," he said, "I told a girl who was there, a black girl, that I was sorry. She said she knew it. Then I asked her why she thought it was being made into such an issue. She said she had no idea."
To help rectify his actions, Kuhn has promised to work with the NAACP and other local groups to raise awareness about issues of racism in his city.
Still, he warned that he might rescind his apology if "people wouldn't accept it."
For many Americans, blackface minstrelsy has a long and painful history dating back to the Jim Crow era, when white actors would paint their faces with grease or tar and exaggerate their lips and hair to mock African Americans.
While changes in racial attitudes have effectively eliminated its use in comedy, films and theater, it is still occasionally seen. Actor Robert Downey Jr. recently appeared in blackface in the hit film "Tropic Thunder."