DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick stood before hundreds of people last summer and triumphantly proclaimed: "Die, N-word, and we don't want to see you 'round here no more."
But although Kilpatrick and other black leaders symbolically buried the racial slur in a mock funeral last July, he uttered it in his State of the City address Tuesday, which was carried live on local television and radio stations.
Facing possible perjury charges from testimony during a whistle-blowers' trial and criticism over sexually explicit text messages he sent to his former top aide, a defiant Kilpatrick lashed out at the media and opponents. He said he and his family have been subjected to racial slurs, as well as threats over the past month.
"In the past 30 days, I've been called a nigger more than anytime in my entire life," said Kilpatrick, 37. "In the past three days, I've received more death threats than I have in my entire administration."
Kilpatrick's use of the slur drew a sharp response from state Attorney General Mike Cox, who called it "race-baiting on par with David Duke and George Wallace" on Wednesday and said the mayor should step down for the good of the city and region.
"What he said cannot be unsaid, and he is not fit to be mayor anymore," Cox, who is white, said in an interview on WJR-AM. "He's a very talented guy, but he has overstayed his day. He should resign, he should quit, whether he's charged or not."
Kilpatrick spokesman James Canning said Cox "has the right to his opinion" but said the mayor will remain in office. He said Kilpatrick used the slur in his speech as an example of how hurtful the epithet can be.
"He was explaining to the citizens of Detroit the situation he and his family have been put in by some very vile individuals who have decided they will thrust upon he and his family some very threatening forms of communications," Canning said.
Some black leaders criticized Kilpatrick, saying he chose the wrong forum and wrong language for his outburst.
"It most especially was not a place to use the same word that, supposedly, we buried last summer," said the Rev. Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit. "You can make references to it without using it."
But others said the context in which the mayor used the word should be considered.
"He was trying to make a point. He wasn't using it in the typical vernacular," said Richard J. McIntire, the national spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The N-word has been used as a slur against blacks for more than a century. It remains a symbol of racism, but also is used by blacks when referring to other blacks, especially in comedy routines and rap and hip-hop music. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as other national black leaders, have called for an end to the use of the word.
Kilpatrick has been under fire since excerpts of sexually explicit text messages between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff at the time were reported in January by the Detroit Free Press.
In a trial over a lawsuit against the city brought by two police officers who said they were wrongly fired, Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty denied under oath that they had been romantically involved.
The City Council settled the lawsuit for $8.4 million, but councilors didn't know about a secret deal to keep mention of the text messages out of the settlement.
Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty denied that they didn't have a romantic relationship during a lawsuit against the city brought by two police officers who said they were wrongly fired. The City Council settled the lawsuit for $8.4 million, but councilors didn't know about a secret deal to keep mention of the text messages out of the settlement.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is deciding whether to charge Kilpatrick and Beatty with perjury.