Tay Anderson, a black Denver school board member who has been instrumental in organizing protests against the death of George Floyd, tweeted a video Monday morning of Hickenlooper making the quip. The video shows a silhouetted Hickenlooper speaking at some sort of gathering with a microphone in his hand about political schedulers. “Imagine an ancient slave ship,” he tells the audience. He says the schedulers are the people who lashed slaves to keep them rowing the ship. “We elected officials are the ones rowing,” Hickenlooper said.
In a statement released through his campaign, Hickenlooper said: “Taking a look at this video from six years ago, I recognize that my comments were painful. I did not intend them to be. I offer my deepest apologies.”
Hickenlooper’s campaign said the video Anderson tweeted was from 2014 but did not specify the event at which the then-governor was speaking. Anderson has endorsed Hickenlooper’s rival, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
Hickenlooper is the front-runner in the June 30 primary, but he has stumbled repeatedly recently. Earlier this month Hickenlooper struggled to give his definition of the term “Black Lives Matter,” saying it meant that “every life matters” — a formulation rejected by many of the African American activists who coined the slogan and one for which Hickenlooper later apologized. Then the state ethics commission found Hickenlooper violated the state's voter-approved ethics law by accepting flights on private planes while governor.
The winner of Colorado's Democratic Senate primary will face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable GOP senator this year.