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Ex-mayor's comments stir racial firestorm

Andrew Young resigns from a Wal-Mart post after he made derogatory comments about Jews, Koreans and Arabs.

Published August 19, 2006

ATLANTA - Former Atlanta Mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was hired to help Wal-Mart Stores Inc. improve its public image, resigned Friday from his position as head of an outside support group after he made derogatory comments about Jewish, Korean and Arab shop owners.

Young, who was hired by Working Families for Wal-Mart in February, had said in an interview with the weekly Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper that Wal-Mart should displace independent stores because their owners "ripped off" urban communities.

"Well, I think they should; they ran the 'mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," Young said in the interview. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."

In a statement released by Working Families for Wal-Mart, Young apologized for the comments.

"These comments run contrary to everything I have dedicated my life to," Young, 74, said in the statement. "My comments in no way reflect on Wal-Mart's record, progress or role as a diverse employer and community citizen. I apologize for those comments. I retract those comments. And I ask for the forgiveness of those I have offended."

In an interview with the Associated Press, Young, who was once a close associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., said his comments were misinterpreted.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said Friday that the company agreed that Young should resign and that Young's comments do not reflect Wal-Mart's views.

"We are appalled by those comments," Simley said. "We are also dismayed that they would come from someone who has worked so hard for so many years for equal rights in this country."

Young's comment also caused a stir in the Georgia governor's race, where Young is co-chairman of the election campaign for Democrat candidate Mark Taylor. A spokesman for Taylor said there are no plans for Young to step down from the campaign.

However, Taylor's opponent, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is running for re-election, said such offensive remarks wouldn't be tolerated by anyone associated with his campaign.

"I can tell you if anyone representing Sonny Perdue ever said something like that, we'd tell them to step down immediately," said Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said he was surprised by Young's comments.

"If anyone should know that these are the words of bigotry, anti-Semitism and prejudice, it's him," Hier said. "I know he apologized ... but if anyone would utter remarks like this about African-Americans his voice would be the first to rise in indignation."


[Last modified August 19, 2006, 01:43:21]

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