Michigan commissioner blames Black people for virus, uses N-word

Leelanau County.
Leelanau County. (Google Maps)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – An elected 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.

Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik said Tom Eckerle, a member of the county road commission, would step down after receiving criticism from across the U.S. for his comments.

“I personally and professionally think it's in the best interests of Mr. Eckerle, the road commission and Leelanau County,” Janik told The Associated Press.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported that Eckerle had informed the newspaper 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.

“I'm not a racist,” Eckerle told the AP. “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 racist 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.

Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Eckerle's fellow road commission members were among those demanding he step down.