New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called on a sheriff to resign Thursday after he was caught on tape making racially charged remarks about African Americans and the state’s first Sikh attorney general.
WNYC radio obtained the tape from a person who was present during Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino’s conversation with colleagues. The statements were recorded on the day of Murphy’s inauguration in January.
Saudino was heard on the tape saying New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal was appointed because of “the turban.” Grewal is the first Sikh to serve as a state attorney general in U.S. history.
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Saudino was also heard slamming alleged policies that would allow African Americans to “come in, do whatever the f— they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that.”
“He [Murphy] talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state…better criminal justice reform,” Saudino said. “Christ almighty, in other words, let the blacks come in, do whatever the f— they want, smoke their marijuana, do this do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”
Saudino also questioned whether Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who is not married, is gay.
Murphy called the remarks “appalling” in a statement issued on Thursday.
“Without question, the comments made on that recording are appalling, and anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office,” Murphy said. “If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino’s voice on the recording, he must resign.”
Grewal, who worked closely with Saudino when he served as Bergen County prosecutor before being appointed attorney general, echoed Murphy’s call for Saudino to resign.
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“I have thick skin and I’ve been called far worse,” Grewal said in a statement. “But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist and hurtful. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”
Saudino apologized for his remarks on Thursday night but did not say he would step down. He said the comments were “not representative of the person that 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.”
The sheriff also said he has contacted “several respected leaders in the communities I have offended and I have personally offered my apologies and I have asked for their forgiveness and for the communities’ forgiveness.”
In July, two New Jersey radio hosts were suspended without pay for 10 days after repeatedly referring to Grewal as “turban man” during a broadcast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.