Former Lowell School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr., left, on the TV show “City Life.” Hoey resigned after using an anti-Semitic slur on the program.

Lowell School Committee member resigns after calling a former employee a “kike” on live TV

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Lowell School Committee member resigns after calling a former employee a “kike” on live TV

Former Lowell School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr., left, on the TV show “City Life.” Hoey resigned after using an anti-Semitic slur on the program.

 

Lowell School Committee member calls former employee a “kike” on live TV

LOWELL – School Committee member Robert Hoey Jr., who referred to a former administrator at the Lowell Public Schools as a “kike” on live cable access TV on Wednesday, announced his resignation on Friday in a video posted on Facebook.

Hoey, who hosts the morning show “City Life” on Lowell Telecommunications Corporation cable access Channel 8, made the statement on the live program at around 6:35 a.m. while discussing school personnel. “We lost the kike, I mean the Jewish guy. I hate to say it but that’s what people used to say behind his back – Gary Frisch … He was the guy in charge of our budget,” said Hoey.

Since the program aired, the clip of the anti-Semitic slur has been widely circulated on social media throughout the country, and Hoey has been under pressure to resign. Hours after Hoey’s comments were broadcast, Lowell Mayor John Leahy requested that the Lowell City Council and the School Committee hold a joint meeting to demand the immediate resignation of Hoey “for offensive conduct that shocks the conscience.”

Other representatives also called for his resignation. “Elected officials who use such language, or harbor such thoughts about any race, religion, or ethnic bigotry are in violation of their oath, have forfeited the honor of their office and should not be allowed to represent this city, and its students and parents. Mr. Hoey should resign,” said US Representative Lori Trahan, State Senator Edward Kennedy, and Representatives Thomas Golden, Venna Howard and Rady Mom, in a statement.

In his resignation video, Hoey spoke for seven minutes before announcing his decision to quit. “As of today, I’m resigning from the Lowell School Committee,” he said. Earlier in the video, he apologized to Frisch and the community. “I’m so sorry to that individual that was hurt by this, and I’m sorry to every individual across the country,” said Hoey.

Hoey was first elected to the Lowell School Committee in 2015 was paid $12,000 by the city annually. Hoey could not be reached for comment.

This is not Hoey’s first public comment that has riled Jews. In 2018, the Lowell Sun reported that Hoey had called a Lowell radio talk show that was discussing North Middlesex Registry of Deeds Richard Howe Jr. On the show, Hoey said that Howe managed the registry like “Hitler.”

Frisch, who formerly worked for the Lowell Public Schools, could not be reached for comment. He is now the director of Finance and Operations for the Gloucester Public Schools.

Jackie Doherty, another member of the School Committee, was also a guest on the “City Life” TV program on Wednesday but appeared after Hoey’s use of the anti-Semitic slur.

“I did not hear Mr. Hoey’s remark nor was it referenced at any point during the hour I was on the program,” Doherty said in a statement Wednesday night. “After learning about it tonight, I am appalled and wholeheartedly condemn such language. It is offensive and harmful to the community I love where our diversity is a source of strength and pride.”

Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, said that Hoey should apologize and engage in some self-reflection about the harm and the damage of the words that he used.

“It’s just outrageous and shocking that an elected official in 2021 would refer to someone Jewish using a slur that is only common among neo-Nazis and white supremacists,” said Trestan.

“The other concerning part of this is when he uses the word kike, he uses it in the context as an attack on a former employee who apparently had some responsibility over funds. And so the combination of using the word kike and connecting it to this man’s job – and it being related to money – only enforces an anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and money. So it’s not just the use of the slur ­– which is horrible – he’s using it in a way that reinforces and sends a message to others that’s anti-Semitic.”

After Hoey made the comment, the program continued for another 85 minutes without any guests condemning the slur.

“Another troubling thing is nobody called him out on it,” said Trestan. “It happened on a live program but if you hear someone say this and you remain silent and don’t call it out, you know, in some ways you’re just as culpable. One of the primary things we teach kids in school is that you should be calling out racism, anti-Semitism, and hate in real time. Imagine if a teacher used that word in a school. What would the school do to the teacher?”

Lowell City Manager Eileen Donoghue also condemned Hoey’s remarks and endorsed the mayor’s resolution calling for Hoey’s resignation. “The anti-Semitic language used by School Committee member Robert Hoey to describe a former employee of the Lowell Public Schools reflects a reprehensible degree of bigotry, and is particularly unconscionable coming from an elected official who represents one of the Commonwealth’s most diverse schools districts and one that prides itself on inclusivity and tolerance,” she said.

This is a breaking story and will be updated. Steven A. Rosenberg is the editor and publisher of the Jewish Journal and can be reached at rosenberg@jewishjournal.org

23 Responses

  1. I am a member of the Lowell School Committee and was a guest on the “City Life” show today although later in the broadcast. I did not hear Mr. Hoey’s remark nor was it referenced at any point during the hour I was on the program. After learning about it tonight, I am appalled and wholeheartedly condemn such language. It is offensive and harmful to the community I love where our diversity is a source of strength and pride.

  2. Mr. Hoey should be removed from office for his racist offensive remarks. He does not belong in public service or office.

    1. I know Bob he’s not a bad guy but he is nuts. He comes from the old Lowell projectsn Doesn’t understand the PC world. He doesn’t come from an angle of being superior. Just using the old stereotypes that many people his age were brought up on. What I’m trying to say is he’s a Crazy Mick and he knows it.

  3. I am appalled that no one had the guts to call him out. By keeping silent, every one of you implied that what he said was A-OK. Well, it isn’t. I husband was brought up in Lowell and at the time there were three thriving congregations. Lowell is today, a multi ethnic, multi cultural city and words like that have no place there.

  4. I can’t believe in this day and age that the Lowell school board would allow this racist man to remain on the school board. This is a stain on the school board and the city government as a whole if no action is taken against this man. I’m flabbergasted. This man must be removed from office for his racist comments.

  5. In their defense on no one calling it out I think the co-host is barely conscious… he barely moved… smh
    This is crazy… and in a city like Lowell… I can only imagine he has some very colorful (pun intended) views on Black People, Latinx and Asians… and he has something to do with the education of children?!? Its a tragedy and he is unfit to serve.

  6. Just as troubling, if not more so, is his assertion that, ” that’s what people used to say behind his back” Which people? There should be follow up to that question.

    1. A great point but I am thinking that “he” is the people that use to say it behind his back.
      His so called apology seemed to be more of a deflection.

    2. I agree–I would take that admission seriously. His casual use of the slur indicates that it was commonplace where he worked.

  7. Each and every person in the live studio who heard this and did nothing about it should be terminated immediately. Their silence makes them complicit in the spreading of this bigotry.

  8. Here is a letter that I just sent in response to this disgusting comment.

    Chairman Leahy

    I request that you call for an emergency meeting to demand the resignation of your School Committee member Robert Hoey. Anti Semitic comments have no place in this world. Mr. Hoey as an elected official is charged with the oversight of education for the children of Lowell and has demonstrated the worst of our society. Lowell is an immigrant city filled with a diverse cultural mix. The use of his slur on a publicly televised forum shows a complete disregard for cultural diversity. This is not the type of person any community should choose to represent your citizens especially children. I hope that you and your fellow members have the courage to stand up to his heinous speech. It is time to be upstanders and not bystanders to his hurtful and degrading rhetoric.

    Josh Degen
    Groton Selectman

  9. Utterly incredible and unacceptable that a person in such a position of authority, especially one charges with the Education of our children, should use such hateful language to disparage a colleague. There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in a polite, and supposedly enlightened society. If Hoey does not resign immediately, the Mayor and City council should vote to remove him from office.

  10. He must be removed. It should not be his choice to self punish via resignation, but the choice of the community to stand up and say “OUT! This will not be tolerated here !” And it has to happen soon. When these acts of bigotry are allowed to drag on, and the offender is allowed to continue his job even for a month, the seriousness of the offense is lessened and even pushed under the proverbial rug.

  11. WOW. I have know Mr Hoey for many many years. I have never known Robert to be cruel or unkind to others.
    Hope you are well Mr. Hoey

    1. What’s disturbing about Hoey’s comment is the casualness with which it was uttered. Are we surprised that bigots can be kind? Of course not. This is exactly what Arendt meant about ‘the banality of evil’. Evil doesn’t wear a t-shirt to alert us to its presence. It happens in single words, gestures and slights that wound to the core.

      Perhaps because I’m not a minority in America, I’ve overheard/seen the worst offerings from people – those casual asides that ‘didn’t mean anything’. Do I wish Mr. Hoey ill will? No, but his time in public should be over, as well as days he’s defended, for goodness sake, in a Jewish publication after he’s spoken with prejudice. What were you thinking, pray tell? I

  12. Wow, will be watching to see whether this community has the integrity to role model appropriate consequence for inappropriate behavior. The children are learning by watching. What does letting this man spew bigotry teach our children in this country??

  13. Hate is Hate and I hope that the entire community will stand up against this antisemitic comment and mindset. We all need to stand up for each other! This is NOT ok and must be called out asap whenever it happens! Our children are watching and we must stand up against antisemism and hate of any kind!

  14. Ben Franklin said that injustice will not be destroyed until those not affected by it are as outraged as those who are. It may not matter that I am Protestant, southern and white, but I do want my fury to connect to change. Where was the outrage in the room when Robert Hoey, Jr. made his obscene, yet glib, comments? I can recall my own naivete confronting the racism in Boston decades ago; but it’s 2021 now, and the axiom about two steps forward and one back has become tragic truth. Here’s to more of us calling out hate in all its forms. It’s never harmless. Paz y luz.

  15. There is nothing that can be said about this that can excuse, explain, justify or accept such speech. For the one person who said they knew this individual personally, I am sorry, but his friends and colleagues need to ostracize this person from any social interaction. If this is something that could be said in public, in an official capacity, what is being said in the background or amongst his family and friends?

    But, as has been pointed out, every member of the city administration-elected, volunteer, or professional–who was present and didn’t immediately rise, express their outrage, and leave the meeting, also needs to resign or be fired. The only way to end this kind of offensive language is for everyone to object whenever and wherever they hear it, and make sure that anyone who speaks like this will know that they will lose everything they hold dear, not just their official position, but their standing in their community, including that with their closest associates. Then, maybe, they will understand the hurt, when they suffer it themselves, and lead efforts to eradicate this from our society.

    Being punitive may well be harsh, but turning our backs on this kind of outrage is worse. The cost of this kind of language has to be so high that it will end, if not because everyone knows it is wrong, then at least because they are afraid to use it.

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