Saturday, 26 Nov 2022

White Kansas Official’s ‘Master Race’ Comment Draws Calls for His Resignation

The governor of Kansas is among several officials calling for a white county commissioner to resign after he used the term “master race” while addressing a black consultant at a public meeting this week.

The commissioner, Louis Klemp of Leavenworth County, made the remark on Tuesday while criticizing the options for developing land that were being presented by Triveece Penelton, who works for an architecture and design company.

According to a video recording of the meeting, Mr. Klemp said to Ms. Penelton: “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race. You know you’ve got a gap in your teeth. You’re the master race. Don’t ever forget that.”

After local news media reported on the comments, officials, including the two other county commissioners, called on him to resign, The Kansas City Star reported. On Saturday, Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican, added his name to the list, saying in a statement that “racial and discriminative language have no place in our society, and most especially when spoken by someone holding a public office.”

The idea of a “master race” is prominent in Nazi ideology. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas said in a Facebook post that Mr. Klemp’s remarks were “abhorrent.”

But Mark Loughry, the administrator of Leavenworth County, which is just outside Kansas City, said in a statement that Mr. Klemp’s comments were misconstrued and had nothing to do with Nazism.

Mr. Loughry said Mr. Klemp had used the term “master race” several times in the past year to refer to people with gaps in their front teeth, and his comment was meant to include both Ms. Penelton and himself.

Mr. Klemp did not respond to a message on Saturday. Neither Ms. Penelton nor Mr. Loughry could be reached for comment.

Mark Preisinger, the mayor of Leavenworth, said on Saturday that Mr. Klemp’s remark lacked “common decency” and showed he had no filter. But it was hardly the most inappropriate thing Mr. Klemp has said at an official meeting, Mr. Preisinger said.

In November 2017, when the commission was approving a holiday calendar, Mr. Klemp began a monologue during which he lamented that some historical figures were not honored anymore because they once owned slaves. “My great-great-grandfather had a slave,” he noted.

During his speech, Mr. Klemp called Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army, a “wonderful part of history” and questioned why Martin Luther King’s Birthday should be recognized when there was not a similar day for George Washington. At that same meeting, he later acknowledged the existence of Presidents’ Day.

Mr. Klemp also said no one would understand Lincoln’s historical importance because the Confederacy did not win the Civil War, “which is all good, I guess.”

During the discussion about the holidays, he looked at a calendar in front of him and said: “I didn’t see Oprah on there. No, she’s not on there as a federal holiday.”

Mr. Preisinger said the “master race” remark was the last straw for many people. “It’s embarrassing,” he said. “It’s a stain on our community.”

Mr. Klemp was not elected to his post but chosen by members of the county Republican Party after the previous commissioner resigned because he was ill, said Rett Rogers, the party’s chairman. Mr. Rogers said Mr. Klemp was voted into the position last year by one vote.

Mr. Rogers did not cast his vote for Mr. Klemp — his wife was also in the running — but he said he preferred that Mr. Klemp not resign because his term is ending in January.

He said Mr. Klemp’s recent remark seemed to be intended as a joke. “That was taken in a completely different way,” he said.

Follow Julia Jacobs on Twitter: @juliarebeccaj.

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