Warren Mayor Jim Fouts denies he used gay slur on audio recording

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
Warren Mayor James R. Fouts

Warren — Mayor Jim Fouts is saying recorded audio that sounds like him uttering disparaging comments is fraudulent.

News website Deadline Detroit reported the audio surfaced Tuesday and captured a voice tossing out a disparaging term for a male homosexual.

“(This) is personal to me, just like being a (slur) is personal to somebody, being fat is personal to somebody, being a, uh, a dimwit is personal to somebody. That is personal to me. It is very — it’s like I’ve been raped, like I’ve been accosted. Then the goddamn Warren Weekly ... ,” says the voice, according to Deadline Detroit.

In the past two years, the mayor has been accused of making disparaging comments about people with disabilities, African Americans and women on similar recordings. He has said it wasn't his voice on those recordings.

On Wednesday, Fouts strongly denied he said the word in question on the latest recording during a phone interview.

“My initial reaction was, who does this despicable thing during the holidays when we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa?” he said.

“I'm really into Christmas, and I'm proud of what I've done in the city, including having 18,000 residents sign up to drop off toys and canned goods for families, and a couple of weeks before, I hosted a fundraiser for the Macomb County Warming Center."

Fouts was elected mayor in 2007 and plans to run for re-election in 2019. In December 2016, he and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel sparred after Hackel accused him of making offensive comments about people with special needs.

Fouts called those recordings "manufactured" and "phony." Hackel at the time acknowledged he released those recordings.

In January 2017, other recordings were published that appeared to have Fouts making crude comments about African-Americans and women. Fouts called those recordings "vile, vitriolic, phony."

During the call Wednesday, Fouts continuously steered the conversation to all the accomplishments he said he's made in the city. But when the questions returned to the words on the audio recording, he continued to deny it was him.

"Frankly, I'm getting tired of this," he said. "What kind of sick, demented person would do this? The author of this, or authors, I don' t know who it is, is candidate shopping for mayor.

"People can manufacture and manipulate a tape and take it out of context."

Asked if there could be more audio forthcoming, he said, "If they can make one tape, they can make multiple tapes, but that doesn't reflect what I do," he said. "My record is strong when it comes to diversity."

Back to the audio, he said, "I have a right to confront my accuser. They've manipulated it out of context."

But then he the said: "I don't know if it's my voice. They have the ability to make an exact copy of my voice."

Asked directly if he made a slur against gay people, he said, "I'm not aware of that. They (Deadline Detroit) can say whatever they want. The author has a vendetta against me."

Asked about his approval rating among gay residents, he responded, "I've never done a poll of gays, but I do have a member of a gay group on my crime commission."

He then spent much of the conversation talking about members of the Muslim and African-American community whom he has appointed to various positions.

Steered back to the audio, he responded: "People are candidate shopping and seeing we're a successful city, and the only way to get rid of me is by personal attacks to hurt my image. The bottom line is, I'm not that way."