A black Republican leader believes Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson used a "racist tactic" to personally attack him Wednesday.
James Evans, chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, said he plans to ask the Salt Lake City Council to reprimand Anderson for using the word "slavish" to describe his support for the Bush administration.
Anderson, in an e-mailed response, called Evans' claim "characteristically, absurd" and suggested that people read his speech and "determine for themselves whether there is any basis for James' twisted interpretation."
Some minority community leaders and a political scientist said Anderson's words may have been ill-chosen, but they're not aware of any incidents of racism involving the mayor, who has worked extensively to build bridges with the minority community.
During a speech Wednesday opposing the Iraq war, Anderson said: "So James Evans and these folks who financed this massive radio campaign these last few days, let them understand that blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism. A patriot does not tell people who are intensely concerned about their country to just sit down and be quiet; to refrain from speaking out in the name of politeness or for the sake of being a good host; to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president."
Earlier this month, Evans was compared to the Ku Klux Klan in a blog by Mike Ridgway, in an internal Republican party dispute. Ridgway is a perpetual Republican dissident and former U.S. Senate candidate.
Now, Evans said Anderson is "basically saying James Evans is a slave to Bush."
Evans is among Republicans who had publicly criticized Anderson's plans to speak at the anti-war rally held on the same day as President Bush arrived in Utah. However, the advertisement was financed by the state Republican Party. Evans said he would have been fine with political rhetoric from Anderson, and his dispute was with the mayor's use of a single word.
"The moment he links me as a slave, what he is trying to do is debase me as a human," Evans said. "That's no different than the segregationists of the South."
In his e-mailed response, Anderson said he believed Evans' complaint is politically motivated in an ongoing disagreement between the two.
"In the past, James Evans has gone to great lengths to attack me in the most partisan manner, but never did I think he could stoop so low and get it so wrong," Anderson said. "I didn't even refer to James or the Republicans who financed the recent radio campaign against dissent in my written speech but was moved while delivering the speech to make reference to them because of their partisan support of this disastrous presidency. "
But Evans believes it was a "thoughtful and deliberate" effort to single him out.
"The mayor's relation between people of color is patronizing," Evans said. "You have to be compliant, you have to be obedient."
Kirk Jowers, executive director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, said Anderson "does not suffer disagreements lightly," but he said that's true for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity.
"Mayor Anderson has many flaws," Jowers said. "I've never considered racism to be one of them."
Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake Branch NAACP, said she's worked with Anderson for more than decade, and he has "always been defending us."
While she's never known him to make a derogatory remark toward a person of color, she said, Anderson could have been more sensitive in his choice of words.
Michael Clara, vice chairman of the Utah Republican Hispanic Assembly, said except for the word "slavish," he had no problem with the mayor's remarks."The mayor needs to show a little more historic sensitivity," Clara said. "Especially coming from somebody like the mayor who says he's sensitive to everyone and everything. He certainly didn't exercise that kind of sensitivity."