A Mississippi sheriff is being called racist after he described a Hispanic legislator as “worse than a black person,” then answered a reporter’s question about whether he thinks Black people are difficult to please with “yes.”
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson was complaining about state Rep. Shane Aguirre’s involvement in debates about the county jail when the sheriff sent a text message in August 2017 that the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal recently obtained.
In that message to white Lee County Supervisor Phil Morgan, Johnson said of Aguirre: “He’s worse than a black person, your not going to please him.”
Johnson told the Daily Journal he “was aggravated” with Aguirre at the time because the first-term Republican representative had opposed a bill that would have allowed the construction of a county jail outside Tupelo.
The city, which is about 190 mile north of Jackson, is part of Lee County but has its own governing structure.
Johnson said in text messages he didn’t want to keep holding city of Tupelo prisoner.
“There was probably no call for mentioning anything of race,” Johnson said.
He however, couldn’t stay away from the subject.
The Daily Journal, which wrote about the incident Tuesday, recently asked Johnson if he believes Black people are difficult to please, and the sheriff responded, “I think when you play the race card, yes, it’s difficult to please some people.”
In other text messages obtained by the Daily Journal, Johnson praised white Lee County supervisor Mike Smith after he tried to block Lee County’s only black supervisor, Tommie Lee Ivy, from attending the state’s minority supervisors’ caucus at public expense.
“Whatever you do, please don’t let them back you down,” Johnson wrote to Smith. “You owe them nothing.”
When Smith later apologized for “rude remarks” he made about the issue, Johnson called the apology “sickening” and later said race-based organizations “take us back” to a “race-based mindset.”
“I think the NAACP is an organization that is trying to stand up for a group of people,” Johnson told the Daily Journal. “I don’t know enough about it, because I don’t attend. I’m not a member.”
Morgan sided with Ivy in the black caucus decision and has distanced himself from comments Johnson made in 2017.
“The sheriff sent me these messages unprompted, I presume, in an attempt to sway my view on these issues,” Morgan told the Daily Journal in a statement. “Though we come from different parties, Tommie Lee Ivy and I have worked on numerous issues over the years and I consider him a close friend.
“The entire county has benefited from his dedication to public service and I would never condone derogatory remarks directed at him.”