New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday denounced an audio recording in which the sheriff of the state’s most populous county reportedly made racist remarks about blacks as well as the state’s Sikh attorney general, calling the remarks appalling.
National Public Radio affiliate WNYC published comments from a secret taping it said it had obtained of Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, who is white, making unsavory remarks after the January inauguration of Murphy, a Democrat who succeeded Republican Chris Christie.
The station said that Saudino is heard talking to colleagues about Murphy’s speech.
“He talked about the whole thing, the marijuana, sanctuary state … better criminal justice reform,” he says of the governor. “Christ almighty, in other words let the blacks come in, do whatever … they want, smoke their marijuana, do this, do that, and don’t worry about it. You know, we’ll tie the hands of cops.”
Later Saudino says that Gurbir Grewal, the first Sikh attorney general in the country, was appointed by Murphy solely because of his religion.
“He didn’t do that to help Bergen County, he did that because of the Turban,” he says.
The Washington Post was not able to independently verify that Saudino was the one speaking on the audio files that WNYC published. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Murphy said in a statement that “anyone using racist, homophobic, and hateful language is unfit for public office.”
“If indeed that is Sheriff Saudino’s voice on the recording, he must resign,” he said.
Saudino, who switched parties to become a Democrat in 2016 after running as a Republican previously, will be up for reelection next year, WNYC reported.
Grewal told WNYC that he has worked with Saudino for two years and that he was surprised by the remarks.
“If that’s in fact Sheriff Saudino’s voice, then he should resign immediately,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’ve got thick skin and I’ve been called far worse. But the comments about the African-American community are wrong, racist, and hurtful. The comments about our Lieutenant Governor are inappropriate and homophobic. New Jersey and Bergen County deserve better.”
Earlier this year, two hosts of a conservative-leaning radio show in New Jersey were suspended after making fun of Grewal’s turban, saying that they didn’t remember his name and preferred to call him, “Turban man.”
In the recording, Saudino also wonders about the sexuality of the state’s lieutenant governor, Sheila Oliver, who is unmarried.
“Is she gay?” he asks, according to WNYC. “Because she’s never been married.”
“Obviously the sheriff is a relic of an era gone by,” Oliver said, according to WNYC. “Diversity and inclusion should be top priorities for him as a law enforcement official in a county such as Bergen – how ignorant.”
There are nearly 1 million residents in Bergen County, about 20 percent of whom are Latino, 17 percent Asian and 7 percent black, according to Census figures cited by WNYC.
Before he was Sheriff of the county, Saudino was the police chief of Emerson, a predominantly white borough in the state, WNYC reported.