Civil rights activist wants Phoenix-area NAACP boss to step down after incident

Jan 29, 2016, 4:25 PM
In this photo taken on Thursday evening, Dec. 4, 2014, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a Phoenix leader in...
In this photo taken on Thursday evening, Dec. 4, 2014, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a Phoenix leader in the Black community, speaks at Civic Space Park during a rally/ march to Phoenix Police headquarters which he organized to protest the police killing of Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man. The mother and girlfriend of Brisbon, an unarmed drug suspect fatally shot by a Phoenix police officer who mistook a pill bottle for a gun, do not want the incident to become about race. The deadly shooting Tuesday, Dec. 2, of Brisbon, 34, demonstrates the challenges law enforcement agencies face at a time of unrest over police tactics. Phoenix police say the officer, who is white, feared the suspect was armed during their struggle, but some critics say the officer went too far. Despite the department's efforts to be transparent with information, protesters marched Thursday night. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Cheryl Evans)
(AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Cheryl Evans)
LISTEN: Rev. Jarrett Maupin

PHOENIX —  A Phoenix civil rights activist is suggesting the head of a local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter step down after making several inappropriate comments toward a television reporter.

Rev. Jarrett Maupin said he wants Don Harris, the president of the Maricopa County NAACP chapter, to step down from his position in an interview with KTAR News’ Mac and Gaydos on Friday.

Don Harris (YouTube)

Don Harris (YouTube)

“It’s not a personal thing, it’s a professional thing and an accountability thing,” Maupin said. “We can’t ask six young, white girls to not say the N-word and engage in intentional, racist acts, only to walk out of a meeting minutes later and engage in intentional sexist, misogynistic remarks.”

Harris allegedly used profane language toward a Channel 12 reporter, saying “Nice t*ts” following an interview on Wednesday about a meeting which discussed banning the use of the N-word, after a photo of several local teenagers depicting the slur went viral last week.

The comment was caught on tape, which can be heard on the New Times’ website.

Maupin said Harris’ comments are the perfect example of white privilege, a stereotype the organization aims to prevent and avoid.

“Don can be a bit of a character, but I think he’s also a well-to-do, older, white male and he exhibited some of the signs of what we’ve called ‘white privilege,’ he said with Mac and Gaydos. “He should know better than anyone, as the NAACP, to do what he did.”

Although Harris has apologized for the comments, Maupin said he felt the NAACP leader did not think his actions would have garnered this much controversy.

“I think he felt like, much like these young girls (at Desert Vista), that even though he shouldn’t, that he could,” he said. “I don’t think they were really worried about the consequences of it because they didn’t feel like they were subject to any consequences for it.”

Maupin said Harris has had a history of inappropriate behavior but has given a “considerable amount of money” to the NAACP, which he believes is a reason that his position has been upheld over the years.

Harris spoke with Mac and Gaydos on Thursday, and said he believes his credibility has not been ruined from this incident.

“I’ve done a lot of good in this community, and I’m not going to have that good set aside by a stupid, errant comment by myself,” he said with Mac and Gaydos.

Harris called the comments “an egregious error” and said plans to apologize to Griego in a private manner.

“I didn’t know I was being recorded, but I wouldn’t lie about it,” he told Mac & Gaydos. “If somebody called the next day and said ‘Did you say that?’ I would have said ‘yes.’ I don’t lie.”

The 12 News reporter, Monique Griego, has not commented on the incident personally, but 12 News released a statement Wednesday saying the organization stands behind her.

“As a news organization, my editorial team will treat this story as we would any other story: with a fair, unbiased approach as a part of our normal news gathering,” the statement read. “12 News supports Monique Griego and all of our reporters and photojournalists who cover the people and issues of Arizona for you every day.”

Harris went to the meeting on Wednesday to discuss a photo depicting six students lined up spelling out a racial slur on T-shirts. The photo has gained notoriety across the country over the past week and has also sparked discussion about race issues at the school.

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Civil rights activist wants Phoenix-area NAACP boss to step down after incident