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Koch Receives Invitation, Insults from Mississippi Mayors Following Remark With PM-Racial

December 24, 1986

Koch Receives Invitation, Insults from Mississippi Mayors Following Remark With PM-Racial Attack Bjt

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Five mayors in Mississippi are angered by a nationally televised slur Edward I. Koch made about the South, and one of them reportedly used an ethnic slur to describe New York City’s mayor.

Koch’s taped comments, broadcast Tuesday on NBC, referred to the death of a 23-year-old black man who was run over by a car after being beaten by a gang of white youths in New York City.

″I’d expect this kind of thing to happen in the Deep South,″ Koch said, according to a network spokesman.

Brookhaven Mayor W.W. Godbold wrote Koch a letter protesting the statement.

He later referred to Koch as a ″Jew bastard,″ according to newspaper report published here today.

″I believe that Jews like him who get in this office don’t know the hell what they are talking about,″ The Clarion-Ledger quoted Godbold as saying.

″It opens up the wounds when he persists that the South has problems like this, especially when he has murders up there every minute and he compares New York to Mississippi,″ he said. ″The trouble we had in the ’50′s wouldn’t have happened unless people like him came down here and stirred things up.″

Lee Llambelis, Koch’s assistant press secretary, said there would be no response to Godbold’s comments.

″We’re not going to stoop down to his level,″ Llambelis said. ″We won’t get into that type of ignorant name-calling. It’s more crucial that we resolve our problem here and get it behind us.″

Godbold was among four mayors who responded to Koch’s remarks by inviting him to Mississippi to see the state’s approach to racial problems. The others were Dale Danks of Jackson, James M. Trotter of Columbus, and William C. Burnley of Greenville.

″I would say that he doesn’t understand what the South is all about,″ Trotter said. ″He needs to come down here and understand there is a good relation between blacks and whites.″

Llambelis said Koch’s statement was part of a comparison between the black victim’s ordeal and a situation when Koch was involved in a voter registration case in Mississippi in 1963.

Koch and another lawyer were walking to a courthouse when a group of white farmers surrounded them and started clapping, Llambelis said. The two were intimidated and ran the rest of the way to the courthouse, she said.

Similarly, Michael Griffith, 23, was chased by a group of whites in the Queens borough, and Koch could understand the black man’s fear, Llambelis said.

Mayor Charles Evers of Fayette, the first black elected to a biracial town in Mississippi and a former field director of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Tuesday he expects an apology from Koch.

″New York has always claimed they were above this type of thing, but Mississippi has come much farther race relations-wise than New York, Boston or the other so-called city-states,″ Evers said.

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