Matt Whit­man is sorry if he of­fended any­one by us­ing the word “ne­gro”

The coun­cil­lor yet again is­sues a pub­lic apol­ogy for his com­ments about race.

The Coast - - THE CITY - BY JA­COB BOON

For the third time in his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, Matt Whit­man has is­sued a pub­lic apol­ogy.

The coun­cil­lor stood at the start of Tues­day’s com­mit­tee of the whole to ad­dress his Twit­ter fight last week with fel­low elected of­fi­cial Shawn Cleary and his use of the word “ne­gro” on TV.

“I apol­o­gize to my col­league and all mem­bers of coun­cil for any em­bar­rass­ment I may have caused. My com­ments never meant to in­sult, hurt, de­mean or oth­er­wise dis­par­age any­one,” Whit­man said.

Dur­ing a tele­vised in­ter­view with CTV At­lantic, Whit­man used the word “ne­gro” to de­scribe Black peo­ple while de­fend­ing his as­ser­tion that it’s im­pos­si­ble to be racist to­wards Mex­i­cans. The out­dated, of­fen­sive ter­mi­nol­ogy prompted coun­cil­lor Lindell Smith to pub­licly scold his col­league.

“Please don’t use the word ‘ne­groes,’” Smith tweeted at Whit­man. “It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate and we are not in 1950.”

Whit­man later de­fended his choice of lan­guage to CTV as a le­git­i­mate “word in the dic­tionary,” but was more re­pen­tant on Tues­day.

“My posts lost sight of the is­sue, and I be­came en­gulfed in in­ap­pro­pri­ate di­a­logue. For that, I apol­o­gize. I’m sorry if I of­fended any­one. That never was, nor has ever been, my in­tent. In fu­ture, I com­mit to, as mayor Sav­age has said, read twice, send once.”

It was an ap­pro­pri­ate apol­ogy for a “poor choice of words,” ac­cord­ing to the mayor.

“He did the right thing,” said Mike Sav­age. “He came to coun­cil to­day and apol­o­gized. That doesn’t nul­lify the is­sues we have to deal with. It helps.”

But ab­so­lu­tion is not be­ing of­fered from Shawn Cleary.

“I think he should be apol­o­giz­ing to all res­i­dents of Hal­i­fax, es­pe­cially our racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties, for us­ing the words that he used,” said the coun­cil­lor.

A smil­ing Whit­man brushed past me­dia for the rest of the day with­out mak­ing any ad­di­tional com­ment other than that his “apol­ogy stands.” He was largely silent for the re­main­der of Tues­day’s coun­cil meet­ing save for oblig­a­tory com­mu­nity an­nounce­ments and voic­ing a short dis­ap­proval of Cleary’s mo­tion for a staff re­port on set­ting up a lob­by­ist reg­istry.

This is the third time Whit­man has is­sued a pub­lic apol­ogy for his ac­tions. In 2016, coun­cil passed a mo­tion or­der­ing him to apol­o­gize for so­cial me­dia posts di­rected at an RCMP of­fi­cer. Ear­lier this year, while run­ning for the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives provin­cially, Whit­man ex­pressed his re­gret for up­loaded a video of him­self yelling “Chi­nese fire drill” and run­ning around a car.

“I apol­o­gize for my lapse in judg­ment and my un­in­ten­tional use of what I now un­der­stand to be an in­sen­si­tive term,” he said at the time.

Four com­plaints about coun­cil­lor con­duct last week have been sub­mit­ted to city hall—at least one of which is about Whit­man’s com­ments in the me­dia. De­spite his apol­ogy, those items will still for­mally need to be ad­dressed in-cam­era by coun­cil at a fu­ture meet­ing. De­pend­ing on the out­come, Whit­man could be or­dered to at­tend sen­si­tiv­ity coun­selling or is­sue an­other pub­lic apol­ogy.

RI­LEY SMITH

Coun­cil­lor Whit­man is sorry.

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