City Official Who Criticized Black Lives Matter, Coronavirus Measures Resigns

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/07/28/city-official-who-criticized-black-lives-matter-coronavirus-measures-resigns/

A local public official in northwestern Massachusetts has resigned from the city council and school committee because of backlash after he criticized Black Lives Matter and the coronavirus shutdowns.

Robert Moulton Jr., of North Adams, made the comments Tuesday, July 21 during his local cable access television called Let’s Talk About It.

He resigned from his local government offices Monday, July 27, according to The Berkshire Eagle. That was one day before the North Adams City Council planned to consider an 886-word resolution censuring Moulton for what he said.

A local Black Lives Matter organizer had previously said his group would protest at city council meetings until Moulton left the council. Black Lives Matter supporters held a demonstration in North Adams this past weekend, according to a Facebook post:

 

Last week, Moulton also resigned as president of the board of North Adams Ambulance Service Inc., which he had headed since 2006.

Moulton’s comments during the show have been summarized and quoted by other news outlets but not reported at length.

This story includes short quotations and longer excerpts of the conversation between Moulton and the show’s co-host that night, Ed Morandi. The first transcript begins at 12:05 of the video on the web site of Northern Berkshire Community Television Corporation.

Morandi asked Moulton a question about Black Lives Matter. Moulton responded:  “It’s a terrorist organization.”

After a comment by Morandi, the conversation continued:

 

Bob Moulton:  No, the Black Lives Matter, don’t agree with it. I don’t think people know what it is. It seems like that’s this month’s flavor. It’s a terrorist organization. They want to get rid of the, the family, as it is.

And I found it ironic. Because I go to, go to work in North Adams, and I’ve got neighbors on both sides who have the signs – and that’s O.K., you want to put a sign up, you know, put a sign up.

But all the way through Williamstown I see the signs. And it’s very ironic, because I wonder – I was telling somebody today – I wonder what they’re going to do when Pine Cobble University, Pine Cobble College comes.

Because everybody knows Williams College, the owner was a slaveowner.

Ed Morandi:  Oh yeah.

Bob Moulton: I wonder how many of these people are now going to say, “You’re right. Black Lives Matter.”  You know how they take down statues, and Christopher Columbus, and want to put Chef Boyardee up.

I mean, I just can’t believe it, how fast things have changed in the last six months. Six months ago, the country was at its all-time high, economy-wise, job-wise, even as far as blacks. You know, the most employed. The highest per capita income. The highest home ownership.

And now it’s all, all no good.

The very ironic thing about racism is what they’re talking – there’s systemic racism. And I still really haven’t had ‘systemic racism’ explained to me. But, in my opinion, they’ve hijacked the word “racism.”  Because I don’t believe any of this is racism.

Ed Morandi:  No

Bob Moulton:  Prejudice.

Ed Morandi:  Prejudice is sad.

Bob Moulton:  It is. It is. But they kind of use that word “racism.” You know, that would be like, I guess, the Vegetable Growers of America saying “Everybody’s gotta like all the vegetables.”

“Well, I don’t like asparagus.”

“Well, you gotta like it.”

You know, you can’t make a law to make me like it. And if you’re prejudiced, no one’s going to make you change that.

But you have to be compassionate, and we all have to get along. We’re all the same race.

 

Moulton’s comments about Black Lives Matter’s stance on the family apparently stem from the organization’s statement on its web site that “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement …”

Later in the show, at about 18:05 of the video, Moulton talked about coronavirus. He said he was astonished when he recently took the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and divided it by the number of people in the country.

A transcript of that exchange follows:

 

Bob Moulton:  And I figure it out. And it was like .8 percent of the population.

Ed Morandi:  Not quite 1 percent

Bob Moulton:  Oh no. No, no.

Ed Morandi:  Not quite 1 percent

Bob Moulton:  — Had coronavirus.

So they shut down the country, they destroyed our economy – people think it’s not, but believe me, this is not good — they did that, for less than 1 percent of the economy.  I just, I couldn’t believe it.

So a guy happened to come in a little while later, and I was telling him about it. And, and he says, “Bob, Bob.” He goes:  “You’re missing the point. You’re missing the point.”

So I was like, “O.K., what’s the point?”

He goes:  “Have you been watching the news?”

I said:  “I keep track of things.”

He said:  “Have you been seeing what’s happening in California, Texas, and Florida?”

I said:  “Yeah.”

He goes:  “It’s surging.”

I said:  “It’s surging.” I said:  “All the young people, who they’ve kept in your house for the last four months, now are going out, and they are getting it.  But the thing is:  They’re not as sick. Deaths have plummeted.

Everybody, virtually, at some point, I believe, it’s like every other kind of virus or flu, you’re going to come in contact with it. I don’t think you’ll be able to avoid it. I think shutting down the country was a huge, huge, huge mistake.

 

Later, Moulton described how he took the total number of confirmed cases in the world and divided it by the number of people in the world. He said he was astounded by how low the percentage is.

“Statistically, the number is zero,” Moulton said.

Moulton said the virus is bad but overstated.

“So to put it in perspective, as bad as this is — and it is, it’s bad. It truly is. But to try to put it in perspective, at least in my mind, to understand how overblown it is,” Moulton said. “And again, there’s people who are susceptible, and I’m one. I’m in the number-one group. I’m over 60, insulin-dependent diabetic. You know? What can I say?”

Moulton described how a customer’s wife didn’t want to come pick up a pair of glasses at the store where he works because of coronavirus, but how he doesn’t feel afraid even though he’s in a high-risk category. He said he recently suggested to a contractor who had tested positive and was in quarantine that he wouldn’t mind if the contractor came over to his house to do the work.

“So, maybe it’s wrong. I think people should quarantine. People should stay safe,” Moulton said. “But I just figure what’s being done to this economy is terrible. What’s being done in the world is terrible.”

Moulton also suggested that public health officials and prominent politicians making decisions about coronavirus don’t know what they’re doing, pointing out that early predictions of widely quoted experts had the virus infecting and killing far more people in the United States by this time than it has so far. He criticized by name Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Moulton said:

 

They scared the wits out of everyone. Out of everyone.

You know, the first three months – “Don’t worry about a mask.” This is when it’s really ramping, most contagious. But “don’t worry about it.”

But they literally make things up as they go along. Charlie Baker has disappointed me.

And the worst one, the worst one, and they’re finally starting to come down on it, I’ve been saying this for a long time. Cuomo is the biggest killer since the virus came out. He’s killed more people. You see him on TV. I mean now, just his voice is starting to annoy me. And maybe I annoy people, too, but that’s O.K..

 

Governor Cuomo has been on the defensive for ordering in late March that coronavirus patients in hospitals in New York state be transferred to nursing homes, where large numbers of residents later died. The governor has denied a connection.

North Adams is a city in Massachusetts of about 12,700 people that is one town south of Vermont and one town east of New York state. It’s about 33 miles east of Albany, New York.

A former mill town, North Adams is also the former home of Sprague Electric Company, which went out of business in 1986 because it could not compete with overseas production. The company’s physical plant is now the site of a modern art museum. The city has lost about 7 percent of its population since 2010. The population is down about 47 percent since its peak of 24,200 in 1900.

The city’s current population in about 90.7 percent white, 4.4 percent Latino and about 1.7 percent African-American, according to the U.S. Census.

Moulton was in his sixth non-consecutive term as city councilor and is a former two-time candidate for mayor of North Adams. In November 2016, North Adams voted for Hillary Clinton for president over Donald Trump 63 to 26 percent, which is a little more lopsided than the statewide result of 60 to 33 percent.

During the television show last week, Moulton expressed frustration with having to hold city council meetings and school committee meetings online via Zoom, even though stores, restaurants, and churches are open and even though, according to him, the meeting room at North Adams City Hall is big enough for social distancing.

He also lamented the continued closing of a splash park in the city and the inconvenience to North Adams residents of not being able to go to city hall.

“Not to have City Hall open is a sin,” Moulton said. “And these politicians, I don’t know if they’re wimps, if they’re power hungry, if they like that authority.”

Later, Morandi suggested the social unrest and disruption in the country has a partisan political point to it, tied to the presidential election this coming November. President Donald Trump has been trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, in recent polls, even though Trump appeared to be in good shape as recently as late winter.

Here’s a transcript of that exchange:

 

Ed Morandi:  Why do you think this is keep going on?

Bob Moulton:  Oh, it’s not going to end.

Ed Morandi:  It will end. It will end on November 3rd.

Bob Moulton:  The thing is, you’ve got the Black Lives Matter, you’ve got the Antifa. So this is — Like Trump or not like Trump, this has political underpinnings. They have tried every single thing they possibly could to disrupt him. They didn’t want the economy going good. They want to see the economy bad. And we were the most powerful, economically, strength this country ever was in in January. [snaps his fingers]  Like that. And, I’m besides myself. I’m frustrated.

 

Moulton lamented the lack of a middle ground in political and social discussions in the United States, saying:

 

You’re a Republican, a Democrat, or independent, I don’t care. I don’t care.

What’s, my opinion, is wrong with this country – and I know some lifelong Democrats, lifelong politicians, who we all know — and they’re all Left. They believe in Black Lives Matters, de-fund the police, and so on and so forth.

Most of that stuff, I think, is moronic. Moronic. We can say it right here. I think it’s moronic.

The problem is, the other side can be just as extreme.

What the problem is, I think now, is there’s no moderates. There’s no people in the middle who say, “This program is great. But Black Lives Matters, that’s a terrorist group. That’s a terrorist group. I cannot back Black Lives Matters.”

And, Trump might come up with something, you don’t like that. But you’re in the middle.

There’s no middle any more. You’re either here [reaches out right hand to one side] or here [reaches out left hand to one side].

 

Moulton’s comments sparked an outcry, including from some of his fellow public officials.

One fellow city councilor, Jason LaForest, posted a statement on his Facebook page claiming that Moulton “believes COVID-19 isn’t real and that supporters of Black Lives Matter are morons.”

“There is no room for uninformed and hate-filled rhetoric in our society and public discourse. In 2020, we continue to shout ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER!’ “ LaForest wrote.

Another city councilor, Lisa Hall Blackmer, claimed that Moulton“dismiss[ed] the impact of this crisis” and “insulted the experts and professionals who do this work every day to protect our communities.”

She called Moulton’s criticism of Black Lives Matter “very offensive and divisive” and suggested on her Facebook page that “To have a School Committee member espouse such views is counter to their charge and does not make our families confident in our educational system.”

“[W] e must ensure that Mr. Moulton’s toxic views do not impede the work the rest of us are doing to move North Adams forward,” Blackmer said.

The mayor of North Adams, Tom Bernard, who beat Moulton in the mayor’s race of November 2017, issued a statement claiming that Moulton “expressed opinions about … issues of diversity, equity and inclusion generally” in addition to his comments about Black Lives Matter.

A member of the North Adams School Committee, Tara Jacobs, wrote on her Facebook page that Moulton spoke “hateful words” during his television show and she questioned his role on the policy subcommittee of the school committee, saying:  “Our students of color deserve to feel safe …”

“Recognition is the first step to bringing significant changes and true justice and equity,” Jacobs said.

The North Adams City Council’s draft resolution censuring Moulton states that Moulton “made repugnant personal statements minimizing the work of civil rights reflected in the Black Lives Matter movement, and the work of this body, our city, commonwealth, and nation, in creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.”

The resolution also claims that Moulton engaged in “misrepresenting all supporters of Black Lives Matter as ‘moronic’ and terrorists who want to get rid of the family” and that his comments “are found to be false, hateful, discriminatory, and racist, by many in our community and a majority of this Council …”

The city council did not take up the resolution during its online Zoom meeting Tuesday, July 28. The meeting ended early, at least in part because the wifi router in the city council’s chamber was dead, said Paul Hopkins, the city council president, who also cited other technical difficulties. The council did schedule a meeting to appoint a replacement for Moulton, on Tuesday, August 11.

The school committee cancelled a special meeting that had been scheduled for Tuesday night to discuss Moulton, in light of Moulton’s resignation the day before.

The mayor told a radio station, WAMC FM 90.3 in Albany, New York, that he hopes the North Adams’s new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Workgroup can help heal wounds in the city.

He added:  “And we have to keep having dialogue so that issues like systemic racism, issues of why saying Black Lives Matter or All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter is important.”

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