Content warning: Pictures of uses of explicit language
Ann Arbor City Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, posted a quote on Facebook Saturday containing a homophobic slur and disparaging journalists. He defended his use of the slur while repeating it in a phone interview with The Michigan Daily Sunday night before apologizing in a Monday night Facebook post.
In a now-deleted Facebook comment, Hayner quoted excerpts from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” one of which calls journalists a “gang of cruel (f*****s).”
Though Facebook removed the comment, Hayner originally commented multiple times under a post in the Ann Arbor Politics Facebook group about a MLive article discussing online hate against journalists. Hayner told The Daily a moderator of the Facebook group informed him the comment using the slur was removed after 10 minutes for violating guidelines.
On Sunday, Hayner told The Daily he does not apologize for posting the comment and thinks his language should not be considered offensive since it was contained in a quote.
“People who are offended by language like that are people who want to be offended by it… who let themselves be offended by it or who have an ulterior motive,” Hayner said. “They’re not my words.”
But after facing increased backlash from the community, Hayner posted an apology in the Facebook group on Monday.
“I acknowledge the language I quoted is offensive, recognize my poor judgement in using it, and I sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused the community,” Hayner wrote.
In response to Hayner’s comments, Councilmember Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, called out Hayner in a Facebook post Sunday condemning the language and sentiments expressed in the quote.
Radina posted the screenshot of Hayner’s use of the quote along with the contents of an email he sent to Hayner and all other councilmembers. In his Facebook post, Radina wrote that despite Hayner’s “prolific activity on social media,” Radina has not received a reply since he sent Hayner and the other councilmembers the email. In the email, Radina expressed disappointment and criticized both the use of the homophobic slur and the anti-press sentiments.
“Setting aside your tirade against the free press, the thoughtlessness and disregard you displayed for our LGBTQ residents in sharing such a quote is extremely concerning and hurtful,” Radina wrote. “In 2021, LGBTQ residents – especially LGBTQ youth – in one of the most progressive cities in Michigan should never be subjected to elected officials cavalierly utilizing homophobic slurs to insult their perceived adversaries or to advance a political point of view. It is disappointing. It is harmful. And frankly, it makes me question the sincerity of your supposed support for the LGBTQ community.”
Hayner said on Sunday he supports the LGBTQ+ community and is disgusted by Radina’s suggestion that he has harmed anyone. He told The Daily he made the comment because he has been harassed by the media and believes some members of the press are not trustworthy.
“I feel very strongly that some media can be trusted and some can’t,” Hayner said. “I feel strongly that way because that is how I have been treated … For (Radina) to suggest in any way that I don’t support individual rights … is disgusting and disturbing and it’s offensive to me. There is no questioning my commitment to human rights, to LGTBQ rights and to move in our society forward together with equality. And for him to even suggest that shows how little he knows about me.”
Hayner is no stranger to controversy on the council. In December, MLive reported he had added a second floor to his Ann Arbor home without a permit. Hayner maintained he did nothing wrong, but has faced angry public commenters since the addition was reported.
On Sunday, Hayner also defended quoting the excerpt to The Daily by adding he has friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, that the slur has been in print for decades and that it was used by Thompson, an acclaimed journalist, in an important piece of literature. Hayner said he has not been contacted by community members and, because the comment was not directed at anyone in particular and claimed that because the slur itself is “archaic” and “hardly ever hear(d)” anymore, it is not offensive.
“If you take something out of context to stir up outrage, then you’re gonna get outrage,” Hayner said. “If you read things in context or you know where it came from or know what kind of person I am, you’re not outraged by it. If somebody is offended by seeing that word in print, take it up with the publisher.”
Councilmembers have previously raised concerns about Hayner’s behavior on social media.
As of Sunday night, Hayner told The Daily he had not seen Radina’s Facebook post but had a reply prepared to his email. Hayner added he felt it was wrong for Radina to publicly post about the quote before having a private conversation with him.
In a comment on Radina’s Facebook post, Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, thanked Radina for speaking out and said she stands with the LGBTQ+ community.
Washtenaw County Commissioner Katie Scott, D-District 9, posted a letter to the Ann Arbor City Council to her Facebook page Sunday evening, urging them to “affirm the open and welcoming community we have in Ann Arbor,” and signed it from a “proud LGBTQ elected official.”
“There must be a reckoning,” Scott wrote. “We have a choice to create a transformative culture here that supports each resident, or we have a choice to engage in perpetuating harmful stereotypes and being part of a regressive culture. By using quotes like this in a public forum, it paves the way for more hatred and homophobia; it legitimizes it. I’m here to stand up for the LGBTQ community today.”
In his Facebook post, Radina questioned the intent of Hayner’s comments and Hayner’s unwillingness to apologize to Ann Arbor’s LGBTQ+ community. He added he feels angry and exhausted needing to respond to anti-LGBTQ+ hate a week after the anniversary of the election of Kathy Kozachenko, the first LGBTQ+ person elected to public office in the U.S. Kozachenko was elected to Ann Arbor City Council in 1974, when she was a 21-year-old student at the University of Michigan.
“I am deeply disappointed, angry, exhausted, and frustrated that just a week after celebrating the anniversary of the first LGBTQ person elected to public office, I am being forced to address and condemn the reference of bigoted and homophobic language by one of my colleagues,” Radina wrote. “This also comes less than a week after some of us on Council had to dedicate time to educating our colleagues about the threat that white supremacy and white terrorism poses to the (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community.”
In a statement to The Daily, Radina said he cannot comment on the consequences he believes Hayner should face since has not yet received a reply from Hayner. However, he said it is unequivocally Hayner’s responsibility to repair the harm he has caused toward the LGBTQ+ community.
“It cannot be anyone else’s responsibility (to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community),” Radina said. “That, however, also requires a genuine acknowledgement and acceptance of the harm caused, true remorse and a real willingness to learn and do better.”
Daily Staff Reporter Julia Rubin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been updated to include a response from Jeff Hayner a day after the article’s initial release.