Watch: Businessman's viral comment to Wayne Co. Republicans attempting to block vote certification

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Clarification: This story has been updated to specify where Ned Staebler lives.

A university official and businessman is being celebrated on social media after going viral for his heated public comments Tuesday night to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

Ned Staebler, president and CEO of TechTown and vice president for economic development at Wayne State University, warned two Republicans on the board "how history will view" them after they voted to block the certification of votes in Michigan's largest county.

The 2-2 decision had been lauded by Republicans but decried by Democrats. Without the county board's certification, the state could have delayed validating pivotal votes.

During a lengthy public comment session, the vote was described as a targeted attack on majority-Black Detroit.

Staebler threatened Republican board chair Monica Palmer and member William Hartmann saying, "The stain of racism will follow you throughout history."

During his two-minute public comment, he said their grandchildren will remember them as Bull Connor, the Birmingham, Alabama public safety commissioner who opposed the 1960s civil rights movement, or George Wallace, the former Alabama governor who is remembered as a segregationist.

"Just know when you try to sleep tonight that millions of people around the world now on Twitter know the name Monica Palmer and William Hartmann as two people, completely racist and without an understanding of what integrity means, or shred of human decency," said Staebler, who lists Ann Arbor as his hometown on Twitter.

"The law isn't on your side. History won't be on your side. Your conscience will not be on your side, and Lord knows when you go to meet your maker, your soul is going to be very, very warm."

Following Staebler's remarks, along with those by other community members, the two officials abruptly changed course and certified the results of the Nov. 3 election. But they voted to certify after negotiating a demand with board Vice Chairman Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat, that the Secretary of State's office conduct a "comprehensive audit" of precincts with unexplained out-of-balance tallies.

Staebler called out the board's August certification saying, "Your legal arguments are rubbish."

"You talked about not certifying Detroit, even though you acknowledge that Livonia, a city by the way, I know you know is 95% white and bigger variances than Detroit, which is 80% Black, we understand and you know added your name," he said.

Videos of Staebler's public comments are being spread over social media and gaining upward of 10 million views.

Minutes after the reversal, President Donald Trump tweeted, based on the past deadlocked vote, "Wow! Michigan just refused to certify the election results! Having courage is a beautiful thing. The USA stands proud!"

Bill Nowling, speaking as a resident who also works for Wayne County’s communication department, said Staebler’s comments are going viral because they struck a chord with people.

"It was impassioned comments that encapsulates what the issues are for a lot of people in this election, on either side," Nowling said Wednesday. "Trump supporters will see this as what’s wrong, but many more others see it as a ball-faced attempt to disenfranchise Black voters…and it’s hard to say it’s not.

"It’s the not so subtle racism that people in Metro Detroit have been dealing with for decades and that’s what struck a chord with people."

Some Wayne County residents took to Twitter applauding Staebler for speaking as loud as he did. Outsiders are tweeting "what local Detroit charity I can donate a couple of bucks to in his name?"

"Folks. I appreciate the love, but it wasn't me that got the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to reverse their decision. It was US. And, mostly it was powerful people of color demanding their rights," Staebler tweeted with a video of Rev. Wendell Anthony's public comment.

Staebler could not immediately be reached Wednesday.

Some conservatives have attacked Staebler's comments on social media and noted his position at Wayne State University. The right-wing website Breitbart noted that Staebler made his comments even though he doesn't live in Wayne County but lives in Ann Arbor.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_