Fellow Republicans are calling on a New York town official to step down after making racially offensive comments while criticizing the Affordable Care Act.
Jack Moore, supervisor for the town of Henrietta, admits he referred to black people as “city cousins” – but he insists that his record as the owner of a pumpkin patch and greenhouse shows he’s not racist, reported the Democrat & Chronicle.
"I'm not a racist," said Moore, owner of Gro-Moore Farms. "You couldn't be a racist and build a business like I did."
The 58-year-old Moore was recorded April 10 by a Department of Public Works employee while criticizing President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
"You don't know about cousins in the city?” Moore said. “We get all kinds of them, they bus them out here, OK?"
"This Obamacare, I think that's how we're going to pay for your cousins in the city,” Moore tells a town employee.
Video footage shows a black man walk toward the Public Works building, and an employee asks if he's one of the "city cousins" Moore had been talking about.
"Yeah, that's one of your cousins," Moore said.
Another town employee who heard the remarks filed a complaint with the Henrietta Board of Ethics – which ironically was formed by Moore.
"I'm not putting up with that," said Donald Youngman, a black 36-year employee of the town. "No matter what race, religion or whatever -- we're here to serve all the residents."
A conservative talk show host who described himself as a friend said he urged Moore -- who was "anxious and worried" over the comments he'd made -- to apologize last month, before the recordings were made public.
"Instead, he seems to have followed the advice of leaders of the area Republican Party who counseled him to hang back, hope it would blow over, and attack the press if it came out," said Bob Lonsberry, of WHAM-AM.
After the town released the recordings, Moore said he regretted making the “insensitive remark,” but he said the incident made him aware that he and his employees needed sensitivity training – which he plans to make mandatory for all full-time town employees.
"I take ownership of what I said," said Moore, who’s already started sensitivity training. "I never promised I'd be perfect. I have a lot to learn."
The chairman of the Monroe County GOP urged Moore to step down from the position to which he was elected in 2013 and intends to run for again this fall.
Moore confirmed that three town employees had filed complaints against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but he declined to offer specifics.
However, WHAM-TV reported that the complaints allege Moore bullied one employee who is a lesbian and another with a disability.
The lesbian employee said Moore told another employee she looks like "a guy" and drove toward her at a town park, only to swerve at the last minute.
"Oops," Moore said, according to the complaint. "See I'm nice, I missed you."
The disabled employee said Moore called him a variety of disparaging names to mock his disability and tried to fight him when he complained.
"I've been called a slacker, a baby, (and) a woman, as well as being donned with the nickname, 'fat tortoise,'" the man said, according to the complaint.
Moore again cited his business experience to shrug off the complaints.
"When you apply business standards to government, you have to anticipate some employee discomfort," he said.
Watch this video report posted online by WHAM-TV: