Nicholas Sparks has apologised to the LGBTQ community following the release of an email exchange from 2013.
The Notebook author issued a statement following claims he fostered an anti-LGBTQ environment at the Epiphany School of Global Studies in North Carolina, which he co-founded in 2006.
Emails between Sparks and former headmaster Saul Benjamin were leaked to the Daily Beast, last week, amid an ongoing lawsuit with Benjamin.
Benjamin alleged a pattern of "harassment, racism and homophobia", and launched the lawsuit in 2014. The case will go to trial in August. Sparks has rejected the claims in a 29-page court declaration.
In the emails, according to the Daily Beast, Sparks criticised Benjamin for “what some perceive as an agenda that strives to make homosexuality open and accepted”, and “misplaced priorities at the school level (GLBT, diversity, the beauty of other religions, as opposed to academic/curricular/global issues, Christian traditions, etc.).”
In a statement released on Twitter on Monday 17th June, Sparks, who said he is "an unequivocal supporter of gay marriage, gay adoption, and equal employment rights", said: "As someone who has spent the better part of my life as a writer who understands the power of words, I regret and apologies that mine have potentially hurt young people and members of the LGBTQ community, including my friends and colleagues in that community."
He added: "When in one of my emails I used language such as 'there will never be an LGBT club' at Epiphany, I was responding heatedly to how the headmaster had gone about initiating this club...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. I only wish I had used those exact words."
On Thursday 13th June, in response to the Daily Beast article, Sparks said: "The article appearing in today's the Daily Beast is not news, and repeats false accusations and claims made against Epiphany and me, and largely ignores the overwhelming evidence we have submitted to the court."
Benjamin's lawyer, Wigdor LLP partner Lawrence Pearson, said: “The emails written by Nicholas Sparks speak for themselves. Despite Mr Sparks’s attempts to downplay his discriminatory actions, he does not get to decide what is or isn’t 'news.' We look forward to vindicating Mr Benjamin’s rights at trial in August.”
Sparks, who is published by Hachette imprint Little, Brown in the UK, has sold 1.5 million books for £8.2m, with 2009's The Last Song his bestseller at 145,026 copies sold. Hachette declined to comment on the matter.