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Democratic Colorado Senate hopeful Hickenlooper apologizes for slave comment

The former governor and presidential candidate told an audience in 2014 that political schedulers were like the people who lashed slaves on a ship to keep them rowing.
Image: Presidential Candidates Hit The Soapbox At The Iowa State Fair
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper delivers a 20-minute campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair during his presidential campaign in August 2019. Hickenlooper entered Colorado's Senate race after dropping his presidential bid.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is running for the Senate, apologized Monday for comments he made six years ago comparing politicians to slaves being whipped to row "an ancient slave ship."

Tay Anderson, a Black Denver school board member who has been instrumental in organizing protests against the death of George Floyd, tweeted a video Monday morning of Hickenlooper making the quip.

The video shows a silhouetted Hickenlooper speaking at a gathering with a microphone in his hand about political schedulers.

"Imagine an ancient slave ship," he tells the audience. He says the schedulers are the people who lashed slaves to keep them rowing the ship.

"We elected officials are the ones rowing," Hickenlooper said.

In a statement released through his campaign, Hickenlooper said: "Taking a look at this video from six years ago, I recognize that my comments were painful. I did not intend them to be. I offer my deepest apologies."

Hickenlooper's campaign said the video Anderson tweeted was from 2014 but did not specify where Hickenlooper, who was the governor, was speaking.

Anderson has endorsed Hickenlooper's rival, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, in the Democratic primary for the Senate. Hickenlooper is the front-runner in the June 30 primary, but he has stumbled repeatedly recently.

Earlier this month, he struggled to give his definition of the term "Black Lives Matter," saying it meant that "every life matters" — a formulation rejected by many of the African American activists who coined the slogan and one for which Hickenlooper later apologized. Then, the state ethics commission found that Hickenlooper violated the state's voter-approved ethics law by accepting flights on private planes when he was governor.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who is widely seen as the most vulnerable GOP senator this year.