Fouts denies making crude comments on new recordings

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts denied Monday he is the person making crude comments about African-Americans and older women in new recordings released Monday that have prompted calls for his resignation.

The recordings, which include graphic profanity and the use of the N-word, were published Monday by the website Motor City Muckraker. The site did not identify the source of the brief recordings or whether it verified it was his voice on the audio.

The recordings were leaked weeks after Fouts was accused of making disparaging comments about people with disabilities on another set of audio clips.

In a lengthy Facebook post Monday, Fouts accused Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel of releasing the recordings, which he called “vile, vitriolic, phony.” He maintains that the new recordings — along with those released last month — were engineered to sound like him.

Fouts did not return calls or respond to a text from The Detroit News.

“This effort at negative tapes is designed to distract from my efforts of inclusion for all,” Fouts wrote on Facebook. “This tactic dishonors the memory of Martin Luther King, a man of peace.”

Fouts also addressed the controversy during an MLK event Monday at Warren City Hall. In video broadcast by local TV stations, he said: “All this is designed to do is to distract, to divide and disrupt.”

A spokesman for Hackel, John Cwikla, told The News on Monday that the Democratic county executive had nothing to do with the release of the new recordings. Cwikla did confirm Hackel released the first recordings last month.

In the new recordings, a voice is heard comparing blacks to chimpanzees.

“I was watching this black woman with her daughter, and they looked like two chimps,” the person says.

In another recording, the voice expresses disgust at the idea of dating “a 60-year-old hag,” saying: “I think after a certain age they’re all dried up, washed up, burned out ...”

At least three Metro Detroit leaders, including Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, said Monday that Fouts needs to resign.

“Just listened to recordings of Mayor Fouts,” Bouchard, a Republican, posted on his Twitter account. “While I’m not a member of the Warren community, I am member of the human community. You need to go.”

In a tweet late Monday, Duggan wrote: “If Mayor Fouts said those disgusting things, he has to go. The tapes are sickening. It’s hard to believe anybody could say those things.”

The Rev. W.J. Rideout of Detroit, founder of the grassroots group Defenders of Truth and Justice, said he confronted Fouts at the MLK ceremony at Warren City Hall on Monday. Rideout said the recordings show that Fouts is “not suitable for public office.”

Some Warren residents came to Fouts’ defense Monday.

Resident Phill Dutko said it’s unfair to judge Fouts unless he admits it’s his voice or someone proves it.

“This is America, and you’re innocent until proven guilty,” Dutko said. “What if it’s a hoax and it’s someone trying to demean his character?”

Joe DiSano, a Lansing-based political consultant who counseled Fouts on projects and campaigns from 2003-13, told The News he witnessed Fouts using the n-word on numerous occasions.

“I may have been in the ‘chimp’ meeting,” DiSano tweeted on Monday. “Comments like this are why I severed any relationship with (Fouts).”

DiSano told The News he believes Fouts’ statements about black people are a “reflection of his heart.”

In December, someone who sounds like Fouts was heard on a recording calling disabled people “dysfunctional human beings.”

In that case, Fouts denied the voice was his and posted on Facebook that the audio recordings were “phony” and “altered” to sound like him. He declined an offer from a Warren City Councilman to pay for a voice analysis to prove the tapes were not authentic.

Ed Primeau, an audio forensic expert, said Monday the new audio clips were too short to determine scientifically whether the voice belongs to Fouts. Primeau last month told the News he was 80 percent sure the voice on the first recordings was that of the mayor.

“Subjectively, (the new recordings) sound like Fouts to me,” Primeau said in an email Monday to The News.

Fouts, 74, said he believes the recordings are retaliation for him blasting Hackel for allowing contractors to dump excavated dirt on the closed landfill at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre causing environmental concerns.

It appears Fouts was expecting the new recordings to leak.

In a Facebook post Saturday, he predicted more tapes would be released unless he dropped his complaint to the state attorney general about coverups of illegal dumping at Freedom Hill.

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Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed.

WARNING: Recordings below contain graphic content.