After four Connecticut police officers were arrested yesterday on charges that they harassed and intimidated Latinos, a local television reporter caught up with the mayor to ask what he planned to do for Latino residents in the wake of the arrests.
“I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure yet,” East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo told a reporter from the local NBC station.
Yep, that’s what he said.
The reporter was considerate enough to tell Maturo that he was being inappropriate, but the mayor responded by trying to dig himself out of a ditch.
“I might have spaghetti tonight, being of Italian descent,” he said. “I’ve had ethnic food”—Whoa, really?? Where did you find it?!—“and when you asked me what I was doing for Latinos tonight, I may go out and have a Latino dinner in the Latino community. There is nothing wrong with that.”
But there was something wrong. Upon learning that Latinos in his community were being threatened by the very people charged (and paid) to protect them, the mayor responded with a flippant comment that drew on an ethnic stereotype.
Yesterday, he blamed the reporter: “To say we got the mayor in a gotcha, if that’s what the press wants to do, I don’t think they’re helping the situation.”
Today, however, he issued an apology:
“Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation. I regret my insensitive comment and realize that it is my job to lead by example.”
The mayor’s offensive remarks might sound familiar to Suffolk residents. Back in November 2008, after the murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, then-County Executive Steve Levy responded by saying that the hate crime would have been a “one-day story” outside of Suffolk County. Levy eventually apologized (although not as quickly as Maturo), but the initial statement portrayed a lack of regard for the victim, as well as for other immigrants victimized in hate-crime attacks.
Maturo’s response was telling, as well. After learning that East Haven police officers had been accused of making life miserable for some Latino residents, he responded with an ethnic joke. Just like Levy’s comment, Maturo’s shouldn’t be a one-day story.