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Michigan county official defends slur, says he's not racist

Tom Eckerle said in an interview Friday that he had used the world but wasn't a racist.
Credit: Leelanau County Road Commission Facebook

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A county official in northern Michigan has acknowledged using a racial slur but says he's not a racist. 

Tom Eckerle is a member of the Leelanau County Road Commission. 

The Petoskey News-Review quoted Eckerle as using the slur to describe African American residents of Detroit, whom he allegedly blamed for spreading the coronavirus. The remarks came prior to a meeting Tuesday. 

In a phone interview Friday, Eckerle told The Associated Press he had used the word but wasn't a racist. Instead, he said the Black Lives Matter movement was racist. 

Road Commission Chair Bob Joyce twice rebuked Eckerle for using racist language. Eckerle said he can say whatever he likes. State Rep. Jack O’Malley says Eckerle must resign or the county should recall him.

O'Malley released the following statement: 

“After speaking with a number of individuals in the district today, I must say that I am shocked and disappointed to hear of the comments that were made by Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle before a recent road commission meeting. I called Mr. Eckerle to confirm he made these comments. He confirmed that he did. This type of racial slur is flat-out unacceptable and ignorant. 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. It saddens me to have to even make this statement."

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