Ann Arbor City Councilman Jeff Hayner, widely condemned over the past week for the use of a homophobic quote on social media, was stripped of his committee assignments at a special meeting of the council Monday. The motion to remove Hayner from his committees passed by a vote of 8-2.
Hayner found himself in trouble after sharing a quote from author Hunter J. Thompson’s 1971 book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on social media.
“The press is a gang of cruel faggots,” begins the passage Hayner quoted. “It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits – a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
The response was rapid.
Initially, on April 12, Hayner refused to apologize. Then he reconsidered later that day and issued a public apology acknowledging that the “language I quoted is offensive, recognize my poor judgment in using it, and I sincerely apologize for the harm I have caused the community.”
But for the majority of his councilmembers taking part in the virtual meeting Monday, saying sorry just wasn’t enough.
“As a gay man, I’ve been subject to homophobia and hatred for much of my life,” Councilman Travis Radina said. “I have been called the f-word more times than I care to remember, I’ve heard the f-word used as it was in this case — as an insult hurled at others because apparently a derogatory comparison to gay people is still seen as the worst insult imaginable.
“As leaders in our community, our words matter,” Radina continued. “So, to see this sentiment actively shared by an elected community member and for the same person to not immediately acknowledge the harm it can cause to others both hurt and angered me.”
Hayner called the focus on his words a “dangerous thing.”
“Words are dangerous, and the harm that they cause to the community is real, but I also feel that it’s an inappropriate solution,” he said. “I don’t see how my quoting someone’s foul language that was repeated ad infinitum on social media and councilmember’s websites makes me less able to steward our parks or read a liquor license report or read a Brownfield report.”