May 16th, 2014
08:42 AM ET
4 years ago

Police commissioner refuses to apologize for Obama slur

–updated 10:27pm

(CNN) - A police commissioner in a northern New England town says he won't apologize for calling President Barack Obama the "n" word.

Robert Copeland, 82, sat with his arms crossed at a packed town meeting Thursday evening while a crowd of angry residents of predominantly white Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, called for his resignation.

Copeland acknowledged in a statement that he used the racial slur to describe Obama, and said that his use of derogatory language "is no secret."

Jane O'Toole, who moved to Wolfeboro four months ago, told CNN's Erin Burnett she overheard Copeland use the word at a restaurant in March.

O'Toole described the encounter on CNN, substituting "n-word" for the term she said Copeland used at the time. After he was asked a question about a particular TV show, the commissioner allegedly said, "I don't watch TV because every time I do all I ever see is that (expletive) 'n' word."

"It was extraordinarily loud. It wasn't like we were listening in on a quiet conversation. It was loud and just reverberated through the restaurant," O'Toole said on "Erin Burnett OutFront" on Friday night.

As she was leaving the restaurant, O'Toole told CNN she approached Copeland.

"I passed him and quietly said, 'Is someone here tossing around the 'n' word?' And he puffed up and turned around and said 'yeah.'"

She said she wrote to the town manager about the incident, and Copeland replied with a letter to O'Toole.

According to CNN affiliate WMUR the letter stated, "I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic)," Copeland wrote. "For this, I do not apologize - he meets and exceeds my criteria for such."

O'Toole told CNN, "A lot of people said to me, don't rock the boat, you know, it's a small town, don't. But I just - it just didn't sit right with me."

Copeland is one of three members of the police commission, which hires, fires and disciplines officers and sets their salaries. Two months ago, he ran unopposed for re-election and secured another three-year term.

The police commission plans to meet to discuss what action they should take against Copeland, but members didn't tell the audience Thursday where or when that meeting would take place.

CNN spoke with Wolfeboro Police Chief Stuart Chase, who said that Copeland can't be "fired" since he's an elected official. Chase told CNN that Copeland can either resign, or the board of commissioners can move to recall his election and hold a special election to replace him.

Since there was no resolution at the gathering, some of those attending the meeting later confronted Copeland outside.

"I admitted what I did. I made no bone about it," Copeland said to those who followed him as he walked to his car.

And he became angry when WMUR recorded the confrontation, referring to reporter Nick Spinetto as a "nosy individual."

When Spinetto responded that he was a reporter doing his job, Copeland fired back, "I know what you are. You're a skunk. Goodbye."

Wolfeboro, located in the scenic Lakes Region in the central part of New Hampshire, has an estimated 20 African-American residents among its population of 6,300.

The town was often a dateline in news reports during the 2012 presidential election, with GOP nominee Mitt Romney spending time with family and campaign aides at his vacation home on Lake Winnipesaukee.

- CNN's Stephanie Gallman and Cassie Spodak contributed to this report.

Filed under: New Hampshire • President Obama
soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    And that's his right. President Obama doesn't need or want some faux apology. He said what he meant and he meant what he said. I bet if reporters all over the country were to go to these little hick towns they would hear that said about THIS POTUS so much their heads would spin.

    But I don't think his fossilized behind should be sheriff.

    But what am I saying??? There is no racism anymore. Just lazy black folks wanting food stamps, Obama phones and playing the race card that refuse to work for minimum wage. It probably was a set up. (Sarcasm)


    May 16, 2014 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  2. Mike mc

    Free speech , what about it. ?

    May 16, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  3. just me

    An apology would be worthless and meaningless. This old dinosaur needs to be put out to pasture.

    May 16, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  4. Concerned Educator, Mississippi

    I am not surprised and the GOP should take some responsibility fro helping to inflame such sentiment and disrespect regarding the President.

    May 16, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  5. Laverne

    He just looks so hateful and spiteful, his heart is dark and full of ignorance! Sick of every time some one does not like Obama they have to resort to calling him the most hateful, disgusting words one can come up with. The republicans have created a culture since Obama has been president where they think they can say and do anything to this man without any consequences and the sad part about it is there has not been any consequences. Everybody are just sitting on the sidelines whispering among themselves, know it is wrong, but no courage to speak out, then again this is the good ole USA, say what you want, do what you want, treat people the way you want.....!

    May 16, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  6. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Oops Police Commissioner. I feel bad for any blacks that live there. A lynching could jump off at any given moment and those involved would just walk.

    The GOP taking us back to the 50's.... 1850's that is...😞

    May 16, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  7. Rudy NYC

    This is just another example of a very disputed topic. Is President Obama being treated with more disrespect than any other POTUS in history? The obvious answer is yes. I'll bet anyone ten thousand Romney bucks this guy keeps his job.

    May 16, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Look at that face. That's the exact same look I see on older white males faces daily since Nov 2008. Pure hatred and disgust.

    May 16, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    Must be a generational thing....another angry old white man filled with hate and intolerance.

    May 16, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  10. Winston Smith

    The amount of ugliness in this country, posing as leadership is appalling. What's the saddest part about this, that no one is safe from it and it's in every person living here, white or black. The whole country needs to grow up.

    May 16, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic)," Copeland wrote. "For this, I do not apologize – he meets and exceeds my criteria for such."

    And I believe this man is too miserable and too angry to understand let alone accept the changing reality of the world around him so he lashes out at those he perceives to be the "problem" in an effort to justify his bigoted viewpoints.

    May 16, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  12. ChrisM

    Thank God these old farts are dying off And the world will Not miss them one bit

    May 16, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  13. Marty

    I often remember the writings of Evelyn Beatrice Hall and her quote about Voltaire's attitude toward free speech. "I may not agree with what you say but will defend your right to say it". The founding Fathers of the US were learned men. It appears modern men do no share that insight.

    May 16, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  14. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    But, but, but... I thought there was no racism in America. Isn't that what the Republicans say? Actually, this fossil should be congratulated for exposing how old white Republican men actually feel about the president.

    May 16, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  15. S.B. Stein

    Unfortunately there are bigot of various level of hate and stupidity all around.

    May 16, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  16. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    "I believe I did use the 'N' word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse (sic),"
    Racism is alive and well in America. The "current occupant?" Why not address him as the President? Even some of the scumbags on Fox do that.

    May 16, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  17. smith1

    sad that people like this hold positions that could effect minority races. The president has broad shoulders. He would have to concidering all the hate talk he has had to put up with, Still lots of stupid people out their. mostly repos/

    May 16, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. sad state of affairs

    He's purebred gop, which means never having to say sorry, I feel for those who's hearts harbour hate. How can you enjoy your life with so much hatred? Look, African Americans aren't going away, so deal with it, like it or not.

    May 16, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. Name

    The is the face if the TEA party and GOP opposition. This is exactly what they say behind closed doors and behind the scenes at Fox News.

    Not a surprise at all people think this way in this country and around the world.

    We should treat everyone with respect and dignity.

    May 16, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  20. sad state of affairs

    Quality guy, straight from the 1800's. He's simply not smart enough to be embarrassed, or the reason to be.

    May 16, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  21. smith

    This is a no brainer here, he should be fired. We can not tolerate racism anywhere.

    May 16, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  22. Help America return to Greatness

    Any surprise this sentiment exists? Nope. This is the root and messaging behind the TEA party, GOP opposition to everything, and Fox News. This is the main reason why this country has not progress as well as we should have.

    We need to respect all people around the world.

    May 16, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  23. ATLJack

    An 82-year-old police commissioner?

    May 16, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  24. Jackson

    He can always get a job at Donald Sterling's bodyguard.

    May 16, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  25. King Barry

    What law did he break?

    May 16, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
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