Hickenlooper Apologizes For 2014 Video Clip Where He Compares Politicians To Slaves

June 15, 2020
John Hickenlooper AARP ForumJohn Hickenlooper AARP ForumCharlie Neibergall/AP
Then Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper speaks during a presidential candidates forum sponsored by AARP and The Des Moines Register, Monday, July 15, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is apologizing for a remark he made in 2014 where he compared politicians to slaves.

The clip is from a Make-a-Wish Foundation event six years ago. It shows Hickenlooper comparing politicians to slaves rowing on ancient ships and political schedulers as the slave masters.

"If I was to describe a political scheduler, imagine an ancient slave ship," Hickenlooper says in the clip, raising his arm to mimic someone holding up a whip as the crowd laughs. "With the guy with the whips, and you're rowing. We elected officials are the ones that are rowing, and they have nothing but hard, often thankless things to do."

Denver School Board member and community activist Tay Anderson — who is supporting Andrew Romanoff, Hickenlooper's rival, in the Democratic nomination for Senate — tweeted out the clip. He said “referencing my ancestors pain of being brought over here in chains to a political scheduler is utterly disgusting.”

In a statement, Hickenlooper said “looking back 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,” Hickelooper said.

Anderson said that an apology isn't good enough. He wants Hickenlooper to agree to “equity and implicit bias training.”

Hickenlooper has come under criticism in recent weeks as the country has taken a hard look at racial inequality in the United States in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. 

Last week in a debate with Romanoff, Hickenlooper mistakenly referenced the “shooting of George Floyd.” The Minnesota man died after he was asphyxiated by officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

And in a forum on race in early June, Hickenlooper said “that every life matters.” Many take issue with the phrase "All Lives Matter" and similar sentiments like Hickenlooper's, saying they gloss over systemic racism Black Americans face in the country.

Hickenlooper admitted later that he tripped over his words. "So let me be very clear: Black Lives Matter. It's important that we say that because, for far too long, our criminal justice system hasn't reflected that belief," he said in a statement. "So I'll say it again: Black Lives Matter. And working to combat systemic racism matters."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Hickenlooper on Black Lives Matter.