New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino should resign after WNYC published an explosive report revealing that Saudino was caught on tape making racist remarks.
The New York City radio station reported earlier Thursday that Saudino was secretly recorded making racist comments about black people and the state’s Sikh attorney general during a January conversation about the new governor’s agenda. The source who gave WNYC the tape claims it took place in a county office building and asked to remain anonymous for “fear of backlash.”
The sheriff ― who confirmed later Thursday that it was his voice on the recording ― can be heard making profane remarks about Murphy’s inaugural address earlier this year. The incoming governor’s speech denounced the “politics of division” and supported legalizing marijuana.
“He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state ... better criminal justice reform,” Saudino is heard saying. “Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever the fuck they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”
In another clip, Saudino says Gurbir Grewal, the country’s first Sikh attorney general, was appointed by Murphy because of “the turban.”
Saudino can also be heard asking whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver is gay “because she’s never been married.”
HuffPost has not heard the original recording, but clips of the tape can be heard on WNYC’s website. Saudino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Murphy, a Democrat, denounced the recording in a statement to HuffPost, issued before Saudino confirmed it was his voice on the recording.
“Without question, the comments made on that recording are appalling, and anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office,” the statement said. “If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino’s voice on the recording, he must resign.”
In addition to its casual racism, Saudino’s comment stereotyping black citizens ignores studies that show marijuana use does not significantly vary by race. Studies do show, however, that black and brown men in the United States are disproportionately sentenced for drug-related crimes.
Grewal said in a statement to HuffPost on Thursday afternoon that he had heard the tape and had not confirmed it was the sheriff’s voice.
“If that is in fact Sheriff Saudino’s voice, then he should resign immediately,” Grewal’s statement said. “I have thick skin and I’ve been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist, and hurtful. The comments about our Lieutenant Governor are inappropriate and homophobic. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”
In a statement to HuffPost, the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization, also called on Saudino to resign and insisted on anti-bias trainings for all staff employed by the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office.
Saudino released a statement Thursday evening apologizing to residents of Bergen County, confirming he was the voice on the recording. The sheriff said in his statement that he has reached out to the leaders in the communities he has offended to “repair the damage” and ask forgiveness.
“These remarks are not representative of the person I am and they are in no way consistent with the manner in which I have conducted my life personally and as a law enforcement professional with over 46 years of service to the residents of Bergen County,” Saudino’s statement, obtained by ABC7, said.
Saudino’s statement does not address the numerous calls for his resignation.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Sikh Coalition and Bergen County Sheriff Mike Saudino.