A forum about opportunities for youth in St. Petersburg, Fla. turned racial when long-shot mayoral candidate Paul Congemi lashed out at an opponent’s supporters.
The Uhuru Solidarity Movement has backed Jesse Nevel as he has expressed support for its effort to create reparations for slavery.
“Mr. Nevel, you and your people, you talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations,” Congemi said, pointing a finger at the audience. “Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama.”
“My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport,” Congemi continued. “Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back!”
“Get out of here!” a woman in the audience could be heard repeatedly saying.
Congemi wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times, “My remark was meant for the group Mr. Nevel represents. Not all African Americans. Just those that Nevel represents.”
Once a lifelong Democrat, Congemi became a Republican after Barack Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage, he told The Washington Post.
“I’m not politically correct,” Congemi said.
Current Mayor Rick Kriseman released a statement one day after Congemi’s rant over reparations:
“I was reluctant to engage this candidate last night and draw even more attention to his disturbing message. I regret not doing so, though. It is simply unacceptable to spew this kind of bigoted rhetoric. Free speech should not compromise the dignity and respect of any person or community.”
“This candidate spoke hateful words about African-Americans and our LGBT community. He has the right to do so, but nothing about what he said is right. His comments just aren’t who we are.”
This isn’t the first time Congemi has made headlines.
During his failed bid for mayor in 2009, Congemi was banned from a KFC location for aggressively shouting at employees over an eight-piece chicken meal, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“That’s not my f–king food!” Congemi reportedly told the assistant manager.
He told the officers responding to the incident, “Don’t touch me. I am running for mayor, and once I get elected you will be fired!” according to a police report.
“I don’t like you, you gave me a ticket,” Congemi told an officer.
In January, Congemi was charged with felony elder abuse after his 87-year-old mother ended up in intensive care for bed sores.
The sores were so neglected, bone was visible, according to an arrest report obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
The charges were eventually dropped.