THURSDAY UPDATE: Steve Sundberg finally got around to commenting on his racist videos with one of those “sorry if you were offended” type of “apologies.” From The Denver Post:
“In a dark Covid shut down, when businesses were fighting to survive, with people experiencing mental health issues, uncertainty, suicide, substance abuse, domestic violence and fear, we were able to provide through a number of videos, humor and light heartedness, which drove business and cheered people up,” Sundberg wrote in his statement.
“Made over 2 years ago, no one expressed offense. Not any video was intended to be offensive. However, it has recently came to my attention that some people have found content in the videos offensive,” the statement continued. “For anyone I did offend, I apologize and I will learn from it. In light of this, I have taken some of the videos down.”
Fellow City Council Member Dustin Zvonek, meanwhile, planted his head firmly in the sand:
Councilman Dustin Zvonek said he didn’t watch the videos and hadn’t heard that other people were offended, but he doesn’t believe Sundberg is the type of person to intentionally upset people. He added that he doesn’t intend to watch the videos nor does he consider it a council matter.
If there were a handbook for how NOT to deal with this situation, both Sundberg and Zvonek would have their own chapters.
We wrote on Tuesday about a new controversy in the City of Aurora, where City Council Member Steve Sundberg is getting (rightly) blasted for a series of horribly-racist and unfunny commercials he made in 2020 in order to promote his Legends Sports Bar establishment in Aurora.
CBS4 Denver political “reporter” Shaun Boyd must have been busy providing cover for another Republican politician on Tuesday, so actual reporter Alan Gionet picked up the story for CBS4 and found Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman making a massive mistake in a statement responding to the controversy:
“My initial impression was shock, and then quite frankly disgust,” said Colorado State Rep. Iman Jodeh, whose district in Aurora includes the bar. Jodeh is also a spokesperson and general secretary for the Colorado Muslim Society. “Having your shoes on while sitting on a prayer rug holding up a sword. You know these very trite and cliche stereotypes are so low-brow.”
“I was really hoping that Aurora especially was past a lot of these stereotypical, bigoted and racist tropes that have plagued our city for such a while,” Jodeh continued…
…Sundberg declined to comment, but Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman released a statement: “These promotional ads were made prior to his running for Aurora city council. They are an unfortunate attempt at humor, and they are in poor taste, but I don’t believe that he, being married to an African immigrant and having biracial children, is in any way a racist and that he is somehow incapable of being an elected representative in one of the most diverse cities in the United States.” [Pols emphasis]
First of all, Sundberg has demonstrated this week that he is as much of a coward as he is a fool by repeatedly refusing to comment on his racist advertisements. The only other explanation for Sundberg’s silence is that he is very much the racist he portrays in his advertisements. Perhaps Sundberg is just waiting for this controversy to blow over; it will do that eventually, but by not immediately apologizing, Sundberg has made it easy for a future opponent to grind him into dust with his own silence.
But the greater damage is what Coffman has done to his own reputation by essentially excusing the behavior of one of his handpicked allies on the Aurora City Council. Coffman’s response is worthy of another look:
“They are an unfortunate attempt at humor, and they are in poor taste, but I don’t believe that he, being married to an African immigrant and having biracial children, is in any way a racist.”
Sundberg can’t be racist because he married an African immigrant? THIS is what you settled on as a response? Really?
This isn’t difficult. When racist comments emerge, the correct response is to apologize and express both disbelief and regret. The incorrect response, which has nevertheless long been the go-to answer for Republicans, is to basically say, He can’t be racist because he knows a Black person.
In recent months, basketball player Kyrie Irving was suspended for several games and lost millions of dollars in endorsements after he promoted an anti-semitic film and refused for a week to say that he did not hold anti-semitic viewpoints. Irving’s behavior was not excused because he happens to be a Black man. Ditto the artist formerly known as Kanye West.
As it turns out, ANYONE can be racist. There’s no barrier to entry.
As a public service for other Republicans, let’s list a few more answers you should never use when confronted with bigoted comments:
♦ I’m not anti-semitic; I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood.
♦ I can’t be homophobic because my second cousin is gay.
♦ You can’t be racist if you went to a wedding in China (this actually happened).
♦ I know the difference between Hispanics and Chickeenos (this also happened).
Coffman has been in elected office for 30 years as a state lawmaker, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Member of Congress. He should know better than this. Hell, Coffman has plenty of experience with the fallout from saying dumb things himself.
Coffman is up for re-election in November, and this boneheaded comment is absolutely going to matter for his own political future (remember, he only won by 281 votes in 2019). Coffman was already going to have a tough road ahead of him after botching his public safety reform promises; dipping his toes into the anti-mask world; and spending a week pretending to be homeless in Denver as some sort of idiotic exploration of the issue as it relates to Aurora.
As we saw in November, Colorado voters have little patience for candidates who emulate or excuse the boorish behavior of politicians such as Donald Trump or Heidi Ganahl.
Responding to the blatant racism of a political ally is an easy test. Somehow, Mike Coffman managed to fail anyway.