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Mich. city investigating after racist Facebook comment left by account belonging to city employee

Posted: 7:44 AM, May 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-07 11:59:43-04
Mich. city investigating after racist Facebook comment left by account belonging to city employee

DEARBORN, Mich. — The city of Dearborn is investigating and activists demand an apology after a racist Facebook comment was left by a city employee on a story shared by Scripps station WXYZ in Detroit.

The comment was left last week by the account belonging Bill Larion, who works as a part-time surveyor for the city of Dearborn. He was responding to a story written by Scripps-owned publication Simplemost about Halima Aden — a model who will become the first woman in the history of Sports Illustrated to wear a burkini and a hijab in its swimsuit issue.

“Cute picture," Larion's comment read. "Should be on the cover of camels are us."

Larion's Facebook profile, which publicly indicates his employment with the city's engineering department, has since been deleted. He claims his Facebook account was hacked.

“Did not come from me," Larion said.

The city of Dearborn is currently investigating the post, which was made after Dearborn city business hours.

"The city requires that all employees treat people of all backgrounds with respect. That expectation carries over into employees’ behavior off hours, when, under certain situations, their actions can be considered a reflection on the City of Dearborn," a city statement read.

“The comment violates the city of Dearborn’s values and practices, as well as our expectations for employees," Mayor John O'Reilly Jr. said in a statement. "It violates the very heart of our mission statement, which is that we must earn the public’s trust in everything we do.”

“I have zero tolerance for the type of language used in the Facebook comment."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Michigan has called for the city to reprimand Larion.

"References to camels is an oft-used dehumanizing racial slur used against persons of Arab ancestry and against Muslims and those who are perceived to be Arab," a statement by CAIR Michigan said.

“For someone to say that in the open, I wonder what he says behind closed doors," WXYZ viewer Tarek Saleh said. "Especially [when] you work for the city of Dearborn, which the majority is Muslim."

Saleh started an online petition calling for Larion's firing after news broke about the Facebook post last week. The petition had received 120 signatures before she took it down on Monday.

“We’re all about forgiveness," Saleh said.

Saleh added that she would like to see Larion apologize for his comments.

Larion remains employed with the city of Dearborn.

See the city of Dearborn's full statement below:

"Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr. strongly condemns an offensive slur used in a comment on the WXYZ Facebook page and attributed to a part-time City of Dearborn employee, and directed multiple city departments to immediately investigate the source of the remark. The results of the timely investigation, which the Dearborn Police Department began over the weekend, will determine what action is taken, Mayor O’Reilly said. The comment was not posted during City of Dearborn business hours, but its content is in opposition to the City’s mission statement. “I have zero tolerance for the type of language used in the Facebook comment,” Mayor O’Reilly said. “The comment violates the City of Dearborn’s values and practices, as well as our expectations for employees. It violates the very heart of our mission statement, which is that we must earn the public’s trust in everything we do,” said Mayor O’Reilly. The City of Dearborn provides employee training addressing discrimination, sexual harassment and cultural sensitivity. The City requires that all employees treat people of all backgrounds with respect. That expectation carries over into employees’ behavior off hours, when, under certain situations, their actions can be considered a reflection on the City of Dearborn. “We are extremely proud of our diversity and consider it a strength and an advantage. So we will continue to nurture it and to condemn words or actions that attempt to divide us,” said the Mayor. The offensive comment being investigated was posted in reaction to a news story about a Muslim woman appearing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition."