Patrick Rushing, Airway Heights Mayor, Calls President Obama 'Monkey Man' But Says He's Not Racist
The mayor of a small city in Washington admits he called President Barack Obama "monkey man" and first lady Michelle Obama "gorilla face," but says he will not resign over the racist comments.
"Gorilla face Michelle, can't disagree with that," Patrick Rushing, mayor of Airway Heights, reportedly wrote in a Facebook post. "The woman is not attractive except to monkey man Barack. Check out them ears. LOL."
The comments led the city council to call for his resignation on Monday.
“When a figurehead makes comments such as these that sets us back and it's hard to come back from,” police chief and acting city manager Lee Bennett told KXLY, the local ABC station.
However, Rushing insists he will not step down from his role as mayor of the city, which is just outside of Spokane and has a population of nearly 6,500, according to Census data.
“I made a mistake. I owned up to my mistake,” Rushing told the Spokesman-Review. “If I do resign that’s admitting I’m a racist and I’m not.”
He also told local NBC station KHQ that the comments were just "playful back and forth banter that my friends and I do."
Rushing's constituents did not find the comments playful.
"Because I'm black, it's offensive to me because many times blacks have been compared to a gorilla, a monkey. Some type of animal," Tommy Gilbert told KHQ. "I'm a joking and jovial person but I know when something is acceptable or not and that is not acceptable under any circumstances."
The Spokesman-Review reports that Rushing told the city council his comments were “completely out of character." Yet The Pacific Northwest Inlander reports that the mayor has a long history of posting questionable and outright racists comments on Facebook.
The newspaper found what it said were at least 75 posts and reposts, including an image that suggests both the president and his wife should "hang for treason." Another is a "joke" in which the punchline is the pilot of Air Force One suggesting he could throw them and Oprah Winfrey off the plane while in flight. A number of Rushing's online posts also attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, gays and immigrants.
In some posts, Rushing also claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
The posts could not be confirmed as they have since been either deleted or made private.
The city council has threatened sanctions against the mayor if he refuses to resign. The Spokesman-Review said sanctions could include limits on his involvement on boards and commissions.
The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reports that the mayor's position is largely ceremonial, but does come with a seat on the city council and a salary of $2,000 per month.
"I have lived here longer than anyone at this table," city council member Steve Lawrence said during Monday night's meeting, according to publicly released minutes. "We have worked hard to change the way people think of Airway Heights and this will be difficult to come back from."