A Michigan Republican under fire for using a racial slur when claiming that Black residents are responsible for the state’s COVID-19 outbreak is refusing to resign, saying this week that he has received more support than criticism.
Leelanau County Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle has faced nationwide scrutiny after making the incendiary claim at a meeting on Thursday, in which he used the n-word in placing blame for the pandemic and its spread.
“Well, this whole thing is because of them ni****s in Detroit,” Eckerle said, according to the Leelanau Enterprise.
Editor’s note: Eckerle will reportedly resign his position, according to the Detroit Free Press.
As Fox News noted, the incident took place after an official had asked Eckerle why he was not wearing a mask at the public meeting. He responded by criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and saying that the outbreak is the fault of the city’s Black residents.
Eckerle refused to take back the comments when reached by reporters later in the week, telling the Detroit Free Press that he stood by what he said and noted that he had received notes of support from some in the community.
“I’ve got a hell of a lot more of that than I’ve got criticism,” he said, pointing to a message from a supporter saying the Eckerle could count on their backing.
But the Michigan Republican official is facing growing calls to leave his post. As the Detroit Free Press noted, other members of the county road commission released a letter on Friday calling for him to step down from his position. The state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, joined a number of other top officials in calling on Eckerle to step down as well.
“Governor Whitmer believes that Road Commissioner Tom Eckerle must resign immediately. His comments are atrocious,” said a spokesperson for Whitmer, via Fox News. “The Governor has been very clear – there’s no place for hate and racism in Michigan.”
Today, I declared racism to be a public health crisis in Michigan and created the Black Leadership Advisory Council.#COVID19 has highlighted what Black & Brown communities have always known — inequities caused by systemic racism can be deadly.
We’re confronting this head on. pic.twitter.com/Jem2Sj8QsB
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) August 5, 2020
As the Fox News report added, Whitmer also this week declared racism to be a public health crisis, echoing her statement about not tolerating hatred and racism. She has spoken in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and pointed out the racial disparities in the effects of the coronavirus, where the total number of infections and deaths have been higher in communities of color.
Eckerle has said that he would not be heeding calls to resign, though has not released a statement since the governor and other top officials have weighed in on the controversy.