VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - A Virginia Beach city council candidate apologized Saturday for using a racial slur in an anecdote he told at a public forum earlier this week.
Candidate Kenny Golden is running for Rosemary Wilson's at-large seat. He used the slur Tuesday while speaking to a largely African American audience at a public forum at Mount Olive Baptist Church in the Seatack section of the city.
"I am sorry that it happened," said Golden, when asked about the slur.
He used it while answering the following question, asked of him at the forum: "Who do you think is the best candidate among the panel to support the African-American community?"
Golden began to tell the audience at Mount Olive Baptist Church an anecdote about his time in the Navy. Golden said he fired his top chief petty officer for using the 'N-word' when speaking to a sailor.
"The story I was telling about was a young Navy seaman, one of the most junior people on the ship, that had been abused by a chief petty officer," said Golden. "And the unfortunate thing is I used his words and I should have cleaned it up before I told the story."
The point of Golden's story was to show he does not tolerate racial slurs. His opponent, Rosemary Wilson, says she finds that hypocritical.
"He said he fired someone for using that word and then he used it," said Wilson.
When asked, Golden said he had told the story many times before and had used the slur 'sometimes.' Golden says he did not plan to use the story at the forum because he did not know he would be presented with that question.
Golden's campaign says the audience did not react. Wilson's campaign says there was a gasp in the room.
Golden told WAVY.com Saturday that he does not have any video of the forum. WAVY.com spoke to the man who shot video of the forum and he said he had already given the recording to his client, but would not identify that client.
Of the 13 panelists to speak after Golden, the only one who acknowledged the racial slur was Golden's longtime friend Chuck Smith, who is also running for a Virginia Beach city council seat.
"I told Kenny, 'I'm sorry, context or not, that's not a word that we would use, and that's not a word that should be used, because it is offensive to an entire community, particularly at that venue.'"
The issue came up after the husband of a Wilson spokeswoman, who attended the event, wrote an email to the Golden campaign.
"I just can't imagine why he answered it that way, because he made a racist answer," said Wilson. "The community was looking for what he can do for them."
Golden says Wilson is focusing on this incident for her own political gain.
George Minns, the President of the Seatack Community Civic League, wrote in an email that he did not feel the word was directed at the audience. Minns deferred comment, saying candidates can express themselves how they choose, and voters can make their own decisions.
Rosemary Wilson says she sees a 'pattern' of similar comments. She is referencing an incident involving the man who runs the Conservative Coalition, which runs Kenny Golden's campaign.
As WAVY.com reported in 2010, David Bartholomew resigned from his position as chair of the Virginia Beach GOP in 2010 after he was accused of forwarding a racist email. WAVY.com emailed Bartholomew Saturday night for reaction to Wilson's 'pattern' statement, but have not heard back.
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