Alamance commissioner clarifies 'slaves as workers' comments

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Alamance County Commissioner Tim Sutton spoke to ABC11 on Wednesday.

Alamance County Commissioner Tim Sutton found himself in some hot water this week after he referred to slaves as "workers" during a Monday Board of Commissioners meeting.

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The comments came during an unscheduled discussion regarding the Confederate monument that sits in the middle of Graham's Court Square.

WATCH: Raw video clip of Sutton's comments Monday night
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Raw video of Alamance County Commissioner Tim Sutton's controversial comments Monday.

Sutton said his comments are being misconstrued by some people.

In a phone conversation with ABC11 on Wednesday, Sutton discussed his comments and attempted to further clarify the context in which his comments were made.

A full transcript of the conversation between Sutton and ABC11's DeJuan Hoggard is below:

Sutton: "First piece of information that I didn't even realize until today. I had one of my biggest adversaries. I like him, I like his wife. But we differ on many issues. But he texted me ... he said 'Tim, if you're talking about after the war 1865 and gave this date, it's very important to remember the law was that slaves were ex-slaves and the law was what you referred to - if this is the time frame you referring to. And I responded to him exactly, that's the time frame. My great-grandfather passed away 10 years after the war and he was paroled in 1864 or 1865. And if you listen to the tape, I'm clearly referring to post-death. That's all I've got to really say. He basically says you're right."

How has the last 48 hours been for you?

Sutton: "Well I slept like a baby. I slept well and I ate well. And I had pro and con, mostly con. I've had several important pros email me and call me and it's the price of doing politics in this wonderful country of ours."

Can you understand why people would have taken offense to the comments that you made on Monday?

Sutton: "If they can't analyze what I've said, then yes. But I clearly said, I just explained to you! I was talking post-war and I was talking after my great-grandfather died. Those people on that farm were not slaves. Next question."

Now for anyone who was not in the room on Monday, and they weren't -- they didn't have the privilege of hearing the entire context of what you're telling me now -- do you feel that it would be the right decision to publicly clarify what you meant on Monday?

Sutton: "No! No! I can't help that they're taking, uh uh, off-hand reports, out of context statements - one article says two different things. Suggested had slaves and then said had slaves. I cannot help what the left-wing has put out there. And it's like I told a reporter today. Two years ago this would have never been noticed -- number one. Number two, in today's climate, I am in a bowl of, you know, reactionary politics. I am just one of the components of the recipe for the cookie. So uh, you know, maybe in my next meeting if it comes up, I'll explain it a little further. It took an email from somebody who really has disagreed with me over the years. And he said 'Tim if this is what you're talking about, you were right. They were not called slaves. They were workers. They were ex-slaves after a certain date in 1865. Well, my great-grandfather lived 10 years after that. And he would have had to have slaves at age 24 when he went into the war. I doubt that happened.

Look, I'm not teaching a course on this stuff. And I have to be woken up occasionally to the chronological list of the dates. But what I said, it's been backed up by my chairman. It's been backed up by one of my fellow commissioners. You need to read the Times-News today. It's a good article. It's in full context. But I was clearly talking about one farm and one family. And that's what the Times-News said today. And what the left wing did, and people just want to pick at every word you say and tear it apart in this climate, they heard it broadbrush. They saw it broadbrush. But it didn't take place, DeJuan. OK, next question.

Let me ask you about that broad brush. Had you been talking about your great-grandfather 10-15-20 years prior, would you have used the same language?

Sutton: "Well I knew the history. I knew the history. And as far as what my family says about it. We've got a Confederate monument in our square that's been there for 103 years. Supposedly his name is in a box at the base of that as being one of the soldiers that left. But look, anybody that thinks that I believe that slavery was just what they want to think I said, then they're naive. And of course, I know slavery took place, of course, it's not a great moment in our history. That's not what I was referring to. I was referring to post-war. I was referring to post-great-grandfather, which was 10 years after the war. And those workers on that farm couldn't have been slaves by, again, it took the email from this morning to wake up to that fact. I'm not teaching a course on this. I do the best I can, I'm not the bad guy a lot of people want to portray me as. I get the support from the county. I've won 6 general elections, and I've been on our board for 21 years. And I'm not a racist, I've never lived my life that way in my professional career nor in my personal career or in my personal life with my family and my children. But it's amazing we're in a climate of let's get him, let's hang him. He said something that sounds like this, let's do it, let's get him! I'm not going to succumb to it. Next question.

I know you ended up saying that and you're telling me the context now, I think what's important for a lot of people --

Sutton: "The context was there then, DeJuan. Excuse me sir. The context was there then if people had listened."

Right and there were a lot of people who were not in that meeting; myself included.

Sutton: "I can't help that."


Sutton: "Absolutely cannot help that. The bottom line is I made my statement. It was about one farm and one family and basically what I said was absolutely true and people took off on it. And you're trying to take off on it! You've got one more question. I've got to go, I'm on vacation. I've got to go."

I understand. Last question for you. After you explain the context to me, a lot of people want to hear you say that slaves are not workers. And we're talking about before the date that you were referring to -- your great-grandfather.

Sutton: "Say it again. They want me to do what?"

They want to hear from you, after you made your comment, to hear from you that you are not referring to slaves in general as workers.

Sutton: "Pre-end of the war. Go ahead, you tell them!"

I'm asking you.

Sutton: "I told you. You go ahead and say that I said that if you want to. And if it comes up at our next meeting or whenever, I'll report that. I'll say that. But I'm not going to go out here and try to (laughs) calm the waves. I said what I said. I know what I meant. And the fact that everybody took off on it, I can't help that. There's nothing that I can say, with a lot of people, that would ever change their mind. I've been in this business a long time. I've been interviewed well over a thousand-plus times. I know what reporters do at times. I know how the public is when they don't like you, when they don't vote for you. There's nothing I can say short of what I've already told you and when the appropriate moment comes, you know if I feel like doing it or if it's asked of me publicly, I'll say what I said. But the bottom line is what I said was about one family -- listen -- one family and one farm. And I was accurate. I'm more confirmed now than (inaudible) I'm more confirmed now than accurate, than I'm accurate now versus then. But I'm fairly sure I was accurate when I made the statement. And that was just off of obviously one sentence. And I've had a whole list of things. Have you got another question?

Last question for you here. Correct me if I'm wrong. If this statue in the square, that I'm looking at now, if that statue comes down, you all will make sure that it goes back up Correct?

Sutton: "Yes sir. Yes sir. We've got the votes to do it."

And that includes what the state legislature already has in place from 2015?

Sutton: "Well the state legislature, they said we can't take it down."

That's correct. They said the decision does not lie with you all.

Sutton: "Well if it's torn down it would. If it's torn down, we could replace it and put it back. And two of our commissioners, and I'm sure there's a third on there, that would say let's put it back. Let's rebuild it."

Well Mr. Sutton, I certainly appreciate you calling me back and letting me know what's going on.

Sutton: "All I ask is that you be fair."

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