Michigan Official Repeatedly Uses N-Word After Refusing to Wear Mask, Says He Doesn't Regret It

A county official in northern Michigan is facing calls to resign his position on the Leelanau County Road Commission, after he repeatedly used racial slurs during a public meeting earlier this week.

Tom Eckerle, a member of the county's road commission, used the N-word while responding to a question about why he wasn't wearing a mask prior to the Tuesday meeting, the Leelanau Enterprise reported.

"This whole thing is because of them n*****s in Detroit," Eckerle said, according to the paper.

Eckerle, a white man, reiterated his comments to his colleagues and said the Black Lives Matter movement was "taking the country away from us," the Leelanau Enterprise reported. He continued defending his comments in an interview with Interlochen Public Radio on Thursday, during which he said, "I don't regret calling it an n----r," and added, "that's not a person whatsoever."

Black Lives Matter mask
A used Black Lives Matter mask is seen on the ground as New York City continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on August 2, 2020. Earlier this week, a member of the Leelanau County Road Commission in northern Michigan used racial slurs when asked why he was not wearing a mask at a public meeting. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty

Michigan residents are required to wear masks or other face coverings while occupying indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor public spaces. The state is one of several that requires residents to wear masks in spaces where social distancing is difficult to maintain, a preventative measure aimed at preventing further spread of the novel coronavirus.

In light of the racial slurs Eckerle, a Republican, used and his comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is calling on him to resign, The Detroit News reported Friday. The Democratic governor's request for Eckerle's resignation came just days after she declared racism a public health crisis in Michigan and launched a Black Leadership Advisory Council. The council's goals are to "confront systemic racism head on so we can create a more equitable and just Michigan," Whitmer said in a Wednesday news release.

A Republican member of the state's House of Representatives, Rep. Jack O'Malley, also called for Eckerle's resignation in a public statement issued Thursday and encouraged county residents to recall Eckerle if he does not step down.

"I called Mr. Eckerle to confirm he made these comments. He confirmed that he did," O'Malley's statement said. "This type of racial slur is flat-out unacceptable and ignorant."

The Leelanau County Road Commission posted a letter addressing the incident on its Facebook page on Friday. The letter, which was dated Thursday, officially called for Eckerle's resignation.

"We do not condone the racist comments that you made in the Leelanau County Road Commission meeting room on August 4th," the letter to Eckerle said. "We will not tolerate any kind of racism in our meeting room or in our organization.

"This behavior has had a serious effect on our excellent Road Commission, and we are asking that you resign immediately," the letter concluded. It was signed by the commission's four other members, including its chairman and vice chairman.

Eckerle told Interlochen Public Radio on Thursday that he did not intend to resign his post on the commission.

Newsweek reached out to the Leelanau County Road Commission for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Michigan Official Repeatedly Uses N-Word After Refusing to Wear Mask, Says He Doesn't Regret It | U.S.