PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - A top suburban official known for his past blunt remarks about Detroit is being criticized for another round of harsh comments against the city.
Under the headline “Drop Dead, Detroit!” published online Monday by The New Yorker magazine, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is quoted as saying he’ll never say anything positive about Detroit and recommending that people stop for gas in the suburbs before going into the city.
“That’s just a call for a carjacking,” Patterson, a former prosecutor, said of buying gas in Detroit.
The article describes the white Republican as selling the merits of Oakland County while bashing neighboring Detroit, which is more than 80 percent black. Last year, Detroit became largest U.S. city to enter bankruptcy.
Asked about how Detroit might fix its financial problems, Patterson was quoted as saying: “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.’”
The Rev. Charles Williams II, Michigan chapter president of the National Action Network, called for an apology. In a statement, Williams said the remarks were “repulsive” - not just because Detroit is a mostly black city, but “because it is also a direct slight to the American Indian who occupied the land before Detroit was Detroit and Oakland County.”
In a radio interview Tuesday, Patterson called the article “an absolute hatchet job.”
“It was a giant betrayal, and I’m furious about it,” he told WWJ-AM.
Asked about the criticism he is facing from Williams and the National Action Network, Patterson said: “I don’t know who that group is. Tell them to get in line.”
The New Yorker article’s author, Paige Williams, reached Monday by the Detroit Free Press at her home in Boston, said there wasn’t an 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.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and City Council President Brenda Jones issued a joint statement Tuesday.
“Patterson’s statements were not what you would expect from a regional partner with a vested interest in a strong and healthy Detroit,” they said, urging him to apologize 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,” Duggan and Jones said.