A city council member has been removed from all boards and committee assignments after defending his use of a homophobic slur on Facebook.
Ann Arbor councilman Jeffrey Hayner wrote the slur in a now-deleted Facebook comment under an MLive article about journalists being harassed and doxxed online.
Hayner had little sympathy for the publication, which he claimed deliberately “feeds the frenzy” to drive clicks, and responded with a quote from Hunter S Thompson’s 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
“The press is a gang of cruel f****ts,” he wrote, according to the Detroit Metro Times.
“It is a cheap catch-all for f**koffs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
At least five council members and two other public officials admonished Hayner on social media.
“This quote, which utilises a highly offensive homophobic slur, is extremely problematic and unbecoming of a council member,” his fellow council member Travis Radina, who is gay, wrote in an open email.
“Setting aside your tirade against the free press, the thoughtlessness and disregard you displayed for our LGBTQ residents in sharing such a quote is extremely concerning and hurtful.”
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor called Hayner’s post “deeply wrong” and said it creates a “permission structure of degradation” that is harmful to LGBT+ people.
“It hurts individuals of course, but due to his position as council member, the use of the slur distances LGBTQ community members from their government and thereby effects real social harm,” he wrote on social media.
Hayner initially defended his comments and said he found Radina to be “disgusting” and “disturbing” for daring to ask him to apologise.
Speaking to the Michigan Daily, he claimed his use of the slur was acceptable because he has LGBT+ friends and it’s an “archaic” term you “hardly ever hear” anymore – and in any case, Hunter S Thompson said it first.
“If you take something out of context to stir up outrage, then you’re gonna get outrage,” he suggested.
“If you read things in context or you know where it came from or know what kind of person I am, you’re not outraged by it. If somebody is offended by seeing that word in print, take it up with the publisher.”
But as local organisations began condemning him he eventually changed his tune, and two days later he issued a short apology for “any concerned parties”.
“I acknowledge the language I quoted is offensive, recognise my poor judgement in using it, and I sincerely apologise for the harm I have caused the community,” his two-sentence post read.
Last week the city council passed a motion to remove Hayner from all the boards and commissions he has served on until December 2021. He’s also been ordered to complete sensitivity and anti-discrimination training.
Jeffrey Hayner told the Michigan Daily he feels the resolution is “inappropriate” and a “dangerous thing” that overshadows all he’s done to support the LGBT+ community in the past.