New Jersey leaders call on sheriff to step down over ‘appalling’ remarks caught on tape

New Jersey leaders call on sheriff to step down over ‘appalling’ remarks caught on tape
Several New Jersey leaders have called on Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino to step down over comments he purportedly made about African-Americans and his colleagues, including Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (left) and Gov. Phil Murphy. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) called on Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino (D) to resign his post on Thursday, after leaked audio purportedly showed the chief making racially charged and homophobic remarks about other elected officials.

What’s on the audio?

In the recording obtained by WNYC-FM, a voice purported to be Saudino’s is heard making comments to colleagues after Murphy’s inauguration speech on Jan. 16. The comments were aimed at the governor, as well as New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewel, and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver.

Giving a summary of Murphy’s speech, the person can be heard saying, “He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state … better criminal justice reform. Christ almighty, in other words, let the blacks come in, do whatever the f*** they want, smoke their marijuana, do this, do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”

The conversation then shifts to Grewel — the first Sikh to become a state attorney general in the U.S. — who Saudino says was appointed to his office by Murphy because of “the turban” he wears.

Saudino is also purportedly heard asking about the sexuality of Lt. Gov. Oliver, who is single, saying, “Is she gay? Because she’s never been married. Is she gay?”

How are people responding?

In a statement released Thursday, Saudino said, “I would like to offer my sincere apology to the people of Bergen County for the insensitive remarks that were made public today.”

“These remarks are not representative of the person that I am and they are in no way consistent with the manner in which I have conducted my life personally and as a law enforcement professional with over 46 years of service to the residents of Bergen County,” he continued.

Saudino went on to say he has personally apologized to several leaders he offended, but made no mention of resigning.

Murphy issued a statement the same day, saying, “Without question, the comments made on that recording are appalling, and anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office. If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino’s voice on the recording, he must resign.”

Grewal also called for Saudino to step down, adding, “I have thick skin and I’ve been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist and hurtful. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”

Saudino was a Republican before switching parties for his run in 2016. He is serving his third term in office, which expires at the end of next year.