Metro-East News

State lottery board chairman resigns for calling East St. Louis ‘shithole of the universe’

In this July photo, marchers make their way to the mid-point of Eads Bridge as part of the remembrance of the 1917 race riots in East St. Louis.
In this July photo, marchers make their way to the mid-point of Eads Bridge as part of the remembrance of the 1917 race riots in East St. Louis. snagy@bnd.com

The Illinois Lottery Control Board chairman who called East St. Louis the “shithole of the universe” has resigned, according to the governor’s office.

Blair Garber, of Evanston, who is also a member of the Republican State Central Committee, tweeted Jan. 17 about the issue that arose from a Jan. 11 White House meeting, in which President Donald Trump reportedly called Haiti and countries in Africa “shithole” nations.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who was in the meeting, confirmed the president’s comments during news conferences in Chicago. Trump said he used “tough” language, but not the language alleged.

Country musician Charlie Daniels tweeted about the issue Jan. 16.

“Mr Durbin I’m so sorry that your virgin ears were blistered by the absolutely horrible language president Trump used in front of you,” Daniels tweeted. “The president actually thought he was addressing a meeting of members of congress, not a kindergarten class hope you didn’t wet your pants too.”

According to the State Journal-Register, Garber replied to Daniels’ tweet Jan. 17, writing: “Charlie, Durbin’s home town is (get this) east St. Louis illinois! The shithole of the universe! Just do a google search”

The Lottery Control Board, where Garber has served as chairman, advises the lottery superintendent regarding operations, conducts hearings concerning complaints or violations and establishes advertising policy. Garber was appointed to the board in May 2016 by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and the state Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment.

“Mr. Garber has apologized for his comments and is resigning from the Illinois Lottery Control Board effective immediately,” said Rachel Bold, spokeswoman for Rauner.

Garber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, represents East St. Louis in the Illinois Senate and had called for Garber’s resignation from the board, according to Capitol Fax.

“For someone who claims to love the entire state, Governor Rauner seems to surround himself with people who care little for communities besides their own,” Clayborne said. “If the governor does not ask for Mr. Garber’s resignation, then I think it is obvious how the governor feels about places like East St. Louis.”

Clayborne, who serves as the Senate majority leader, said the comments made by Garber are insulting to the many East St. Louisans.

“When you make comments like that, you disparage the legacies and accomplishments of people like jazz legend Miles Davis, Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Jerry Costello, Poet Laureate Eugene Redmond, Major General Marcia Anderson, Olympic gold medalists Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Al Joyner, United Nations Ambassador Donald McHenry, United States Ambassador to Morocco Dwight L. Bush and the thousands of unsung heroes who have called East St. Louis home.”

State Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, said disparaging comments have ramifications.

“I hope that Mr. Blair Garber now understands that racist and despairing comments by public officials toward any of Illinois’ residents will have consequences, though Mr. Garber’s degrading public comments are a part of his First Amendment right to speak freely and be as ‘politically incorrect’ as he wishes towards certain residents of Illinois,” Greenwood said. “Myself, other black, Latino and Asian members of the General Assembly, as well as the general public are well within our own rights to be as critical of him when he clearly chooses to ignore his official duties in representing the interests of everyone in Illinois.”

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