This article is from the archive of our partner .

A local Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, official is refusing to apologize for describing Barack Obama as "that fucking nigger" because, according to him, Obama "meets and exceeds my criteria" for use of that word. Oh, and he says he's not a racist, of course.

Bob Copeland, a member of the town's three-person police commission, was overheard using the phrase by Wolfeboro resident Jane O'Toole, who complained of the incident to his supervisor, commission chairman Joseph Balboni Jr. In response, she received a letter from Copeland himself, who offered this non-apology: 

While I believe the problems associated with minorities in this country are momentous, I am not phobic. My use of derogatory slang in reference to those among them undeserving of respect is no secret. It is the exercise of my 1st Amendment rights... I believe I did use the “N” word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse [sic]. For this I do not apologize – he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.

This defense makes it sound like Copeland, who is 82 years old and a former lawyer, thinks the n-word is akin to say, "jerk," or "loser," which are both slightly rude but not-raced based ways to describe someone you don't respect. That opinion appears to be shared by Balboni, who told the New Hampshire Union Leader  that "this has been blown way out of proportion." 

O'Toole wrote about her experience in a letter published in the Granite State News, which she shared on Facebook. 


In her letter, O'Toole takes the reasonable stance that such high standards for use of the racial slur do not excuse such behavior: 

Of course, Mr. Copeland is within his 1st Amendment rights to spout off anything he pleases. But would you have voted for him, if you knew he harbored these views? I also ask sadly, how can this behavior and response be “accepted” by the other two members of the Police Commission? Does this public statement of opinion, openly admitting racial intolerance, not put the Town at risk for discrimination lawsuits?

That's a lot of good questions. Copeland, on the other hand, told the Union Leader that he had worked with black people before and "had nothing against these people." Balboni added that he thinks "this has been blown way out of proportion,” adding that "We can’t fire him... The guy went out to dinner, and used the word against Obama, and this lady picked up on it. It is what it is." 

Some non-police-commissioner Wolfeboro residents, however, do take issue with casual, public use of racial slurs against the nation's president. The incident is set to be discussed during the Wolfeboro Police Commission's regular meeting today, which roughly 60 people are expected to attend. The Concord Monitor reports that some residents are calling for him to step down over the remark, and some of the more media savvy residents are calling on Jon Stewart to do a segment on Copeland, which would actually be a viable way to end his career. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to