Tom Eckerle, a Republican official in a mostly white county in northern Michigan who used a racist slur prior to a public meeting to describe Black people in Detroit will resign, the county administrator said Friday, according to Detroit News.
The publication quoted Eckerle, a member of the county road commission, as saying, “Well, this whole thing is because of them n—–s in Detroit … I can say anything that I want. Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”
The publication reported that Eckerle “will step down after receiving criticism from across the U.S. for his comments.”
The 75-year-old Republican sparked criticism and calls to resign his elected post, including from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and his fellow commission members.
“His comments are atrocious,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said Friday. “The governor has been very clear — there’s no place for hate and racism in Michigan.”
“I personally and professionally think it’s in the best interests of Mr. Eckerle, the road commission and Leelanau County,” Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik told The Associated Press.
Eckerle had informed The Traverse City Record-Eagle of his plans to quit, saying he didn’t want to “burden” a newly hired road commission manager scheduled to begin work this month. Eckerle did not return a call from the AP. But in a phone interview earlier Friday, he repeated the slur while maintaining he was not a racist.
Eckerle spent much of the interview attacking Black Lives Matter, saying “a mention of the decentralized movement against racial injustice and police brutality is what set him off ahead of a Tuesday meeting,” Detroit News says.
“I’m not a racist,” Eckerle told the AP, according to the newspaper. “Black Lives Matter is racist. If I believed in Black Lives Matter, I would be racist. … Black Lives Matter has no heart. And that is as offensive to me as the N-word,” he added, then used the full racial slur.
“If I could get a few people that, when they see a Black Lives Matter sign up, to think the N-word, I have accomplished what I’m after,” he added.
Marshall Collins Jr., 44, a Black resident of Leelanau County, said Eckerle should be removed from office “by any means necessary.”
“When people say there isn’t racism anymore, the proof is in the pudding. It’s right here in front of us and we choose to ignore it,” said Collins, a member of the Northern Michigan Anti-Racism Task Force.