DETROIT (WWJ) – Outspoken Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is fighting back after a magazine published several controversial comments he made about the city of Detroit.
In the seven-page article, which was published in the “New Yorker” magazine, Patterson is quoted as saying he has nothing positive to say about Detroit, adding that: “The truth hurts, you know? Tough s***.”
Speaking live on WWJ Tuesday morning, Patterson said the article titled “Drop Dead, Detroit!” is an “absolute hatchet job.” He said the comments that reporter Paige Williams decided to run with were made more than 30-years ago.
“I really feel betrayed. She came out, she wanted to talk about the comparison between Oakland County and Wayne County and Detroit,” he said. “By the time she finished, it turned out to be all about me and my past comments on Detroit. That wasn’t the way it was sold or I never would have accepted it, of course. It’s a giant betrayal and I’m furious.”
The 75-year-old Republican said he made the comments — like warning his children never to travel to Detroit: “You do not, do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking.” — back when he was a prosecutor and his relationship wasn’t good with the city or its then-mayor, Colman Young. Still, Patterson feels his comments were justified.
“I’ve (gotten gas in Detroit), but I also have a driver whose a police officer and he’s armed,” he said. “Now, I don’t think any father would disagree with me, when their kids go to Detroit for a concert or sporting event, I’m sure they say ‘Be careful and take extra caution.’ And I think that once they really think about it, they’d probably give the same advice I did: Get your gas out in the suburbs so you don’t have to get out of your car at some poorly lit gas station. And I will not make an apology for that because I think that was good parental advice… try to reduce yourself as a potential target.”
Patterson said despite making a comment about turning Detroit into an Indian reservation, he is “absolutely not” a racist.
“I probably was too blunt for my own good, because I thought that the city was going in the wrong direction and I had the hutzpah to say so. I’m not a racist, I tell it like it is,” he said.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who released a joint statement with Council President Brenda Jones, thinks the city deserves an apology from Patterson.
“Brooks Patterson’s statements were not what you would expect from a regional partner with a vested interest in a strong and healthy Detroit,” the statement read. “We hope he apologizes for this promptly. The Mayor and Council remain focused on our unified efforts to improve the quality of life in Detroit and we are not going to be distracted by negative comments from anyone.”
When asked if he’ll issue an apology over the comments, Patterson said “Oh, give me a break.”
“You know what? These comments that she was talking about are from 30 years ago. And for those comments back then, I probably did apologize. I’m not going to apologize twice for the same comment,” he said.
Williams told the Detroit Free Press on Monday that there wasn’t agenda against Patterson. “Our focus was simply to explore what made Oakland County so successful. That’s what we did do. It’s a balanced portrait,” she said.
The National Action Network, an organization founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton, is calling holding a news conference at 11 a.m. to request a public apology from Patterson. In a statement, Rev. Charles Williams II, the National Action Network’s Michigan chapter president, said Patterson’s remarks were “repulsive” — not just because Detroit is mostly a black city, but “because it is also a direct slight to the American Indians who occupied the land before Detroit was Detroit, and Oakland County.”
“I don’t know who that group is, but I’d tell them to get in line,” Patterson said.
As far as the future is concerned, Patterson said he will probably run for reelection and he’ll be trying to watch his mouth.
“I keep saying ‘Brooks, you’ve got to stop trying to leave them laughing,'” he said. “Sometimes political speech, it can be pretty dull, and I throw in a couple of one-liners that make people laugh and have a good time… so I do that intentionally. I don’t do it intentionally to make people angry, but apparently that is the end product in a couple of cases.”
Patterson is no stranger to making controversial comments. Last May, he likened Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger to Hitler, repeatedly referring to the politician as “Adolf” as TV cameras rolled. He also added a visual element to his verbal bashing after pulling a comb out of his pocket and putting it up to his upper lip, to resemble Hitler’s mustache.
Patterson was also heavily criticized in May 2012 following an outlandish comment he made when asked what advice he would offer embattled Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. He said: “Go in the garage, pull the door down, leave the engine running.” Patterson later dismissed the comment as a “bad joke.”
Following the Ficano incident, Patterson seeming foretold the future by saying, “Oh, well. It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last time my sense of humor’s got me in trouble.”