A local official in Michigan is refusing a chorus of demands for him to resign over his startling use of an offensive racist slur to explain why he wasn't wearing a face mask.
A reporter from the Leelanau Enterprise caught the interaction at the Tuesday meeting of the Leelanau County Road Commission.
Commissioner Tom Eckerle, a Republican, was asked by another commissioner why he wasn't wearing a mask to the meeting.
"Well, this whole thing is because of them n****** down in Detroit," Eckerle responded.
"You can't say that!" responded Commission Chairman Bob Joyce.
"I can say anything I want," Eckerle reportedly responded. "Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us."
When asked to clarify his comments, Eckerle denied that he was racist and defended his use of the racist slur in a phone interview with Interlochen Public Radio.
"No, I don't regret calling it a n*****," Eckerle said.
"A n***** is a n***** is a n*****," he added. "That's not a person whatsoever."
Refuses to resign
Lawmakers in Michigan have demanded that Eckerle resign over the comments, but he has refused. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said through a spokesperson that the comments were "atrocious" and demanded his resignation.
"Governor Whitmer believes that Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle must resign immediately," said Tiffany Brown, the press secretary for Whitmer.
"His comments are atrocious," she added. "The Governor has been very clear – there's no place for hate and racism in Michigan."
Republican state Rep. Jack O'Malley said that the comments were "beyond stupid," and called for Eckerle's resignation after seeking him out to hear his side of the story.
"I called Mr. Eckerle to confirm he made these comments. He confirmed that he did," O'Malley said in his Facebook post.
"This type of racial slur is flat-out unacceptable and ignorant," he added. "I asked Mr. Eckerle to resign his position as road commissioner in light of these comments and shall he refuse, the citizens of Leelanau County have every right to recall him from office."
Eckerle is a retired construction company employee and receives a monthly $500 stipend from the commission.
Here's a local news report about the racial incident:
Video: CAIR-Michigan Calls for Resignation of County Commissioner Who Used 'N-Word' www.youtube.com