An elected official in the small town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, is being called upon to resign after he was overheard using a racial slur — modified by a profanity — to refer to U.S. President Barack Obama in a local restaurant in early March — and later refused to apologize.
Wolfeboro resident Jane O’Toole heard town Police Commissioner Robert Copeland sitting in the bar area of Nolan’s Brick Over Bistro, loudly pontificating about why he no longer watches television — because whenever he turns on the TV, he said, he sees “that f****** n*****.”
The racial slur was a reference, of course, to Obama, the United States’ first African-American president.
O’Toole, who had only recently moved to the town, which has only about 20 black residents in its population of 6,300, said at first she didn’t know what to do about what she had heard. But after talking to several other residents, she came to believe that the town would be generally supportive if she came forward with what she had heard.
“I got the impression this wasn’t the type of town that was going to be like that,” she told The Concord Monitor. “It was going to be more supportive of me. No one sounded surprised.”
When she did make her allegation public, the 82-year-old Robert Copeland not only did not deny it, he said that he was not sorry he used the racial epithet.
“While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic. My use of derogatory slang in reference to those among them undeserving of respect is no secret. It is the exercise of my 1st Amendment rights,” Copeland responded in a written statement. “I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse [sic]. For this I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.”
Police Commission Chairman Joseph Balboni defended Copeland, saying “he’s worked with a lot of blacks in his life,” and that O’Toole was “blowing it all out of proportion” simply because Copeland “said some harsh words about Mr. Obama.”
But about 100 residents turned out at a police commission meeting Thursday night, calling for Robert Copeland to resign. A dozen of the residents got up to speak in favor of Copeland’s resignation, while two spoke in his defense.
While Robert Copeland did not speak at the meeting and has declined interviews, he was heard to tell residents at the meeting, “I want to think about what’s going on and decide.”