DETROIT (AP) — The finance chair for the Republican National Committee told a Michigan tea party gathering this summer that Detroit's plummeting population and lack of a mayoral machine to get voters "to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall" has decreased its influence in elections.
Ron Weiser's comments were secretly videotaped Aug. 9 by a Democrat shadowing a Republican congressional candidate. The Detroit Free Press obtained the video from the Michigan Democratic Party and reported (http://on.freep.com/ZaRArP) on it Sunday.
In the video, Weiser, the state's former GOP chairman, can be seen telling attendees what his thoughts were heading into the Nov. 6 presidential election, which President Barack Obama won.
Detroit — which is more than 80 percent black and votes almost overwhelmingly Democratic — isn't to be feared as much because the city's population has dropped below 700,000 people and there no longer are strong, mayor-led machines to get voters to the polls, Weiser said.
There is "no Coleman Young machine. No Kwame Kilpatrick machine. There is no Dave Bing machine," he said. "There's no machine to go to the pool halls and the barbershops and put those people on buses, and then bus them from precinct to precinct where they vote multiple times.
"And there's no machine to get 'em to stop playing pool and drinking beer in the pool hall. And it does make a difference."
Young was Detroit's first black mayor and served nearly 20 years in the office. Kilpatrick resigned in 2008 during his second term while facing perjury and other charges related to text-messaging sex scandal. Bing, a professional basketball Hall of Famer and former businessman, was elected mayor in 2009.
"Obama has hired a lot of people to go help him get that vote out," Weiser continued in the video. "But if you're not from Detroit, the places where those pool halls and barbershops are, you're not going to be going at 6:30 in November. Not without a side arm."
The Rev. David Bullock, chairman of the Michigan Rainbow Push Coalition, characterized the remarks as racist.
"Detroit is much more than pool halls and barbershops," Bullock told the Free Press. "There are churches, there are parks, there are universities. It's disheartening that the political culture in Michigan and much of the country is so subversively and racially charged."
The comments also drew a sharp response by Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer.
"We have a major Republican figure in Michigan and nationally who is making racist stereotype remarks about voters in Detroit," Brewer said.
Weiser, an Ann Arbor businessman and Michigan Republican Party chairman from 2009-10, later told the newspaper his comments were "never intended to be racist" and that he didn't intend to offend anyone by his statements at the tea party meeting in Milford, northwest of Detroit.
He said he believes voter fraud occurred in Detroit during Young's and Kilpatrick's time in office and defended his statements.
"I don't think there's anything negative about pool halls and barbershops," Weiser told the newspaper Friday "There are many other places I could have talked about that would have had negative connotations.
"Since when is it a stereotype to talk about the fact people drink beer in pool halls? What do you think they drink? Soda pop?"
He also defended his view of crime in Detroit, a city with one of the highest violent crime rates in the country.
"I challenge you to find anyone who says you can walk around the neighborhoods of Detroit at 6:30 in the morning and not find it dangerous," Weiser said.