Last week, The Daily Beast ran a story that alleged to contain anti-gay comments made by Nicholas Sparks, the best-selling author of romance novels like The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, and Message in a Bottle. First, Sparks hit back at the allegations. But on Monday, he took another tack and issued an apology for words that he seems to now admit he made.
The story came from a legal battle involving the Epiphany School of Global Studies, a North Carolina prep school Sparks co-founded in 2006. In e-mails, the novelist decried a former headmaster’s progressive style, taking particular umbrage with what he called “an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted.”
In the wake of a backlash, Sparks posted a lengthy letter to Facebook and to Twitter, in which he apologized and voiced his “unequivocal” support of the LGTBQ community, including students at the school. He says his words were taken out of context, and yet he still should have chosen them better.
“As someone who has spent the better part of my life as a writer who understands the power of words, I regret and apologize that mine have potentially hurt young people and members of the LGBTQ community, including my friends and colleagues in that community,” Sparks wrote. He added that he believes in “the principle that all individuals should be free to love, marry and have children with the person they choose, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The lawsuit, filed by former Epiphany headmaster Saul Hillel Benjamin in 2014, accused Sparks and his Board of Trustees of intentionally limiting the number of accepted minority students, as well as discouraging both access to non-Christian faiths and teachers from helping bullied LGBTQ students. Sparks has denied these accusations, though the e-mails obtained by The Daily Beast did corroborate some of the claims, among them that Sparks tried to block an LGBTQ club. Sparks also addressed that in his Facebook letter.
“My concern was that if a club were to be founded, it be done in a thoughtful, transparent manner with the knowledge of faculty, students and parents — not in secret, and not in a way that felt exceptional,” Sparks said. “I only wish I had used those exact words.”
One thing Sparks did not address in his letter was the claim that he’d made racist comments, including that black students were “too poor and can’t do the academic work.”
The case is expected to go to trial in August. You can read Sparks’ full letter below.