Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Judicial candidate Kent Tester withdraws from race after publication of racial slur in text message

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2016 at 9:34 AM

Yesterday, Blue Hog Report published a text message exchange involving Kent Tester, a candidate for District Court Judge in Van Buren County. The gray boxes of text below are written by Tester.

click to enlarge tester_3.png

The "hair lipped Niger whore" appears to be a reference to Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford (Bradford is white). Initially I wondered whether "Niger" was an autocorrect or typo for a racist slur, or for something else entirely. Based on Tester's statements, it appears that it was indeed a racist slur (Tester says he was quoting someone else). Tester announced today that he was dropping out of the race. 

The Van Buren County Democrat reported yesterday that Tester said that the text message exchange, which Tester said was between himself and his opponent in the race, current District Judge Susan Weaver, used the slur as part of an inside joke — a reference to a nasty comment that someone had made about Weaver in the past: 

Tester told the Van Buren County Democrat this morning that the use of the racial slur he used in the text message to describe Van Buren County Clerk Pam Bradford was part of an inside joke between himself and Weaver in what he described as a friendly text conversation.

Tester explained that when Weaver was running against then-District Court Judge Amy Brazil, Brazil's father, the late Bill Brazil, had used the slur against Weaver, Tester said.

Here is the statement that Tester initially put out yesterday regarding the post from Blue Hog Report: 

tester.png

This initial response was, shall we say, an unsatisfactory answer. Even assuming that Tester is accurately describing the nature of the exchange, jocularly quoting someone else's racist statement is wildly inappropriate. 

One thing missing from the text exchange above is Weaver's response. Was she okay with this "inside joke"? I've asked the Weaver campaign what her reply was. 

In any case, Weaver released the following statement yesterday after Blue Hog published the text message exchange: 

It is unfortunate to the citizens of Faulkner and Van Buren Counties that this is now the focal point of the race instead of the issues. The honesty and integrity of the court would constantly be brought into question should Mr Tester become a judge and no person of ethnicity could feel as if they would receive a fair trial.

This is a strange story since it was Weaver herself who was on the other end of the text message exchange, which presumably took place in November of 2014, when Bradford won her election. Putting on my Sherlock Holmes hat, it was probably Weaver who released the exchange and made it a "focal point of the race." 

Be that as it may. Tester's language, whether he was alluding to a statement made by someone else or not, is disgusting and inexcusable. Tester acknowledged as much in his statement today that he is dropping out of the race, fully taking responsibility: 

tester_2.png


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