Actress turned deputy mayor resigns four months into job after derogatory posts about townfolk are dug up

Tabernacle deputy mayor Natalie Stone said she faced more backlash than her male colleagues after voting to demolish Tabernacle’s town hall

Graig Graziosi
Friday 31 May 2024 18:04 BST
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A Republican deputy mayor in New Jersey who resigned after calling people from her part of the state "inbred imbeciles" is claiming that she was bullied out of her position.

Natalie Stone, a former actress turned deputy mayor of Tabernacle, left her post after four months following backlash when someone unearthed an old social media post she made in a private Facebook group for her neighborhood. The posts were brought to light amid a controversy over her backing off plans to demolish the town hall.

“There is ACTUAL TRUTH to Pineys being incestuous, illiterate, mentally deficient, inbred imbeciles supposedly responsible for generations of morons and prostitutes,” Stone, a Republican, wrote in 2020.

Tabernacle is in Burlington County, and part of the township's identity is that it is the "gateway to the pines" — meaning New Jersey's famed Pine Barrens. The word "Piney" has become both a way for folks from the region to identify and has been used as a derogatory term by those outside the barrens.

It's unclear if Stone made her comment as a bit of self-deprecating humor or if she has resentment toward her town. She is not from the Pine Barrens originally — she was born in Philadelphia — but she has since embraced its identity, including a nod to the region on her IMDB page.

Tabernacle, New Jersey, deputy mayor Natalie Stone during a heated town council meeting. She recently resigned her position after backlash when old social media pots were unearthed.
Tabernacle, New Jersey, deputy mayor Natalie Stone during a heated town council meeting. She recently resigned her position after backlash when old social media pots were unearthed. (screengrab/YouTube/RabbleRouser7982)

“New Jersey’s Pine Barrens are home to legends Natalie M. Stone and the Jersey Devil,” the quote says. Stone has acted in several movies and TV shows, including Boardwalk Empire and Not for Nothing.

Her comments ultimately led to her apologizing and played a role in her resignation earlier this month, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The discovery of the social media post was not a fluke or a coincidence; Stone has been persona non grata in her town since shortly after she took office in January. She and other Tabernacle elected officials voted to knock down their town hall, which dates back to the 19th century. She said the building had suffered "decades of neglect" and needed to be torn down.

The decision to destroy the historic center of the town did not sit well with locals, and created an "uncontrolled uproar," according to Stone.

She said that even though two male committee members voted alongside her to scrap the building, she was the only one who received focused backlash from the community.

“There have been daily posts about me for two months straight,” Stone said.

Those posts have, according to Stone, included fake photos, negative comments about her looks and body and comments about the death of her child.

Even other members of the council wanted her gone; William Sprague Jr. reportedly asked if she could be "fired" for making "racial remarks," according to the Pine Barrens Tribune.

Stone attended an Aprril public meeting where her comments were discussed. She apologized for what she wrote, and explained they were a reaction to a book she was reading at the time about the Pine Barrens' history and culture.

She and other Tabernacle elected officials voted to knock down their town hall, which dates back to the 19th century. She said the building had suffered "decades of neglect" and needed to be torn down.
She and other Tabernacle elected officials voted to knock down their town hall, which dates back to the 19th century. She said the building had suffered "decades of neglect" and needed to be torn down. (Save the Old Tabernacle Town Hall/Facebook)

She resigned, but she says its because of all of the vitriol aimed at her, not because of the social media post.

“The reason I left was because I realized I wouldn’t be able to get anything done when it was apparent that people would rather spend more time ridiculing committee members than working together to find solutions to the many issues in Tabernacle,” Ms Stone said.

She said she will continue to serve her community, but just "not as a politician."

Pine Barrens residents, like members of isolated communities across the US, have been the victim of nasty characterizations by outsiders. James Fielder, a former governor, once advocated for the sterilization of Pine Barrens residents.

The book Ms Stone was reading when she made her comments in 2020, New Jersey's Lost Piney Culture, addressed those misconceptions and celebrates the word "Piney." Its author, William Lewis, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "most people" do not find the term Piney offensive today, but said some might.

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