DETROIT – Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick lashed out at his opponents and the news media Tuesday night, accusing them of showing a "lynch mob mentality" amid a scandal over his exchange of sexually explicit text messages with a former top aide.
The criticism came as he finished reading the written text released before his State of the City address, which only briefly alluded to the text-message controversy.
The case has led to a criminal probe of whether Kilpatrick lied under oath when he denied an affair with former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty that was revealed in the text messages.
Kilpatrick, who is black, said he and his family have been subjected to racial slurs, as well as threats.
"In the past three days, I've received more death threats than I have in my entire administration," he said. "I've heard these words before, but I've never heard them said about my wife and children," he continued, his voice rising as he wagged his fingers and gestured with his arms.
"I don't believe that a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children," he said. "This unethical, illegal, lynch mob mentality has to stop."
The angry tone contrasted with earlier references in what was Kilpatrick's seventh State of the City address Tuesday to what he called a "transformed Detroit."
He promoted an economic stimulus package, promised improved public safety and the creation of new jobs.
"In the daily press of events, in the midst of foreclosures, joblessness, Iraq and Afghanistan, presidential politics, hatred and racism, and even the Kwame Kilpatrick roller coaster ride, sometimes we may not see our own time for what it truly is," Kilpatrick said in prepared remarks. "Tonight, we are at the dawn of a new, transformed Detroit."
Five members of the nine-member Detroit City Council didn't take their customary seats behind him on the stage; three sat in the audience, and two did not attend. The City Council is expected to consider a resolution next week calling for him to resign, but Kilpatrick called for city leaders to work together.
Kilpatrick and Beatty denied under oath during a whistle-blowers' trial last summer that they had a romantic relationship. The text messages from 2002 and 2003, released by the Detroit Free Press in January, contradict those statements. Beatty has stepped down.
The lawsuit, which eventually cost taxpayers $8.4 million, was filed by two former Detroit police officers who said they were fired or forced to resign for investigating claims that Kilpatrick used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.
Before the speech began, about 60 members of Detroit municipal unions picketed outside, urging his resignation or ouster.
They carried signs with messages that included, "fire the mayor," "layoff Kilpatrick now" and "Kwame must go." The protesters cited the text message scandal, as well as public worker layoffs.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy is expected to decide later this week whether she will pursue perjury charges against Kilpatrick and Beatty.