SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah lawmaker who described a bill as an ugly black baby said he's been the target of a "hate lynch mob" through e-mails and phone calls.
Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, has met with allies, who made plans for a rally and newspaper ads to support him. He said he will seek re-election in November.
"I'm not resigning. I never intended to and I'm not going to," Buttars told the Deseret Morning News.
"We live in a very, very sensitive world," he said. "Although what I said had literally nothing in my mind to do with a human being at all — we were talking about an ugly bill — I made a statement that could be easily misinterpreted, and it was."
On Feb. 12, during debate on an education bill, Buttars spoke in opposition: "This baby is black, I'll tell you. This is a dark, ugly thing."
He apologized after Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said Buttars had violated decorum. The head of the local NAACP has demanded his resignation.
Buttars, who has kept a low profile at the Capitol since his remarks, said public reaction has been hateful.
"I thought once again the first couple days, 'Well you're getting beat up but you deserve it, you made a mistake,"' he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "But then they started getting meaner and meaner and meaner to the point it is just a hate lynch mob."
Buttars has boxes of T-shirts in his office that read, "We Support Chris Buttars."
He said he spent years working with troubled teens at Utah Boys Ranch.
"I've dealt with black kids, red kids, brown kids at the Boys Ranch more than half of my adult life, and I've never been accused of racial anything. I see a kid in trouble," he said Monday.
"I suppose that's what bothered me so much that I'd make such a statement because that isn't who I am," Buttars said.
Jeanetta Williams, local president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said a meeting with Buttars is in the works.
"We at the NAACP are here to say enough is enough," she said. "It's not the first time he's made derogatory remarks. ... If he feels comfortable enough to sit up in the Senate and say those things that are harmful, he doesn't belong in the Senate."
Buttars has made critical comments about the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down segregated schools. He is sponsoring a bill to stop Salt Lake City from creating a registry to give same-sex and other domestic partners the ability to share insurance benefits.
"I would like to be thought of as someone who is intensely committed to maintaining the fundamental moral values of the country," Buttars said. "My slogan in all my campaigns has been, 'Defending traditional values.'"