Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said Tuesday his comments comparing life in Utah's capital to life under the rule of the Taliban were made in a light-hearted fashion and weren't directed at the city's predominant religion.
Instead, Anderson said, his comments were directed at the media, the Deseret Morning News specifically, and certain City Council members.
The mayor told The Guardian a London-based newspaper that he was suffering for paying large "dinner tabs" for guests in town for the Salt Lake City International Jazz Festival and the Sundance Summit, a Mayor's Gathering on Climate Protection.
He railed against media coverage of his tabs and against council members who criticized him for using city tax dollars to pay those tabs.
"I truly feel like we're in the middle of a Kafka novel sometimes," Anderson said. "With a little bit of Taliban thrown in."
Anderson said his comments were directed at those who questioned the two midnight tabs he paid with taxpayer dollars last July one at a brew pub for $175 and another at a hotel lobby lounge for $457. Anderson said both bills included food and alcohol. He doesn't have a precise breakdown of the larger bill, nor can he say exactly whose food or drinks he paid for among a group of about 20 people, including visiting mayors and jazz musicians.
His comments about the Taliban addressed "this pathological view some people have towards a glass of wine or a drink," he told the Deseret Morning News.
"Everybody gets up in arms because there was a little bit of alcohol consumed with dinner," he said.
Anderson had previously maintained the city's policy against using public dollars to purchase alcohol was a product of Utah's conservative culture, which is dominated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said he was unaware of the policy in July and changed it last week.
The Guardian article featuring Anderson is about "progressives" in conservative states.Comment on this story
"Here, in the home of Mormonism, no city employee is allowed to pay for alcohol with public funds when entertaining," the article reads.
However, a Deseret Morning News review of comparable cities including Portland, Denver, San Jose and Las Vegas showed all those cities similarly disallowed the use of city funds for alcohol purchases.
Asked about the Taliban quote, Councilman Carlton Christensen had a similarly light-hearted response. He said he has actually taken heat from his "core constituency" for supporting the mayor's ability to buy drinks for visiting dignitaries."I thought it was a pretty harsh comparison," he said. "I've had a few for him, but I've restrained myself. I had to be more diplomatic and take the high road."