Winnipeg mayoral candidate Gord Steeves said his wife's racist comments were made out of fear and anger.
"My wife was scared and she was very angry and she reacted," he told reporters on Tuesday, after starting his press conference with an announcement about zoning. “The comments were not my comments. I support my wife, and I love her and I stand with her, and she made the apology, and I support her.”
The zoning announcement prompted many confused expressions and caused people on Twitter to wonder what Steeves was doing.
He was also heckled by people at Bonnycastle Park, where the press conference was made.
Initially, Steeves tried to keep the location and time of the press conference embargoed, asking the media to keep it quiet.
He was quickly criticized for that on social media and about an hour before it began at 1 p.m. CT, Steeves' campaign team released the details publicly.
"We know the comments were wrong. Lorrie acknowledges that," Steeves said.
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The controversial comments, posted to Lorrie Steeves' Facebook page in 2010, came to light on Friday and have overshadowed Steeves' campaign.
Lorries Steeves wrote she was “really tired of getting harrassed (sic) by the drunken native guys in the skywalks.”
She went on to say, “We all donate enough money to the government to keep thier (sic) sorry assess (sic) on welfare, so shut the f**k up and don't ask me for another handout!"
She has since apologized for the comments, but Steeves took four days to address the matter.
Despite calls for him to drop out of the mayoral race, Steeves said on Tuesday he will not do that.
"I'm a candidate in the mayoralty race but I'm also a husband and a father," he said. "She did something in poor judgment, and she acknowledges that and she apologizes. She is a good, caring, wonderful person, a great mother and a wonderful wife."
Steeves tries to provide 'context'
Steeves also said the comments were made after an incident in which “one of the pandhandlers jumped up, put his finger in her face and said words to the effect of, ‘What’s the matter? Don’t you like native men?’”
Steeves said the story didn’t excuse the Facebook post, though.
“I only tell it to give it some context,” he said.
When asked why he took so long to address the comments publicly, Steeves said he focused on taking care of his family on the weekend.
As for wider concerns about a city divided by race and economic potential, made by fellow candidate Robert Falcon Ouellette, Steeves acknowledged “there may be components of racism in the city.”
He added, “I think that whoever might be elected as mayor might have a challenge in trying to bring different groups [together.]”
Aboriginal community, political analysts react
Members of Winnipeg’s aboriginal community say they’re not happy with what Gord Steeves had to say Tuesday.
“He is trying to run for the mayor of Winnipeg and certainly should apologize to the extent that he doesn’t condone such negative remarks against a certain race,” said Jim bear, the chief of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.
Harrison Friesen, who was at Tuesday’s press event, agrees.
“It was more of a priority to address his campaign … than to address First Nation racism [or] to apologize for his wife, you know,” said Friesen.
Jackie Traverse had hoped Steeves would step down and was disappointed when he didn’t.
“It just makes me think how many other people think like that, you know,” said Traverse. “We as First Nations, we have to organize and we have to get our people voting because we have to make the change ourselves.”
Althea Guiboche had personally invited Gord Steeves to volunteer to help the homeless shortly after the comments surfaced. He was a no show.
On Tuesday, she went to his presser and tried to get his attention but was ignored, she said.
'She’s a white, suburban woman who’s skittish downtown. A lot of people are skittish downtown' - Winnipegger John Paskievich
“If he’s going to treat someone that’s talking to him like they don’t exist that shows me a lot about how he treats people and looks at other people,” she said.
But not everyone was unsatisfied with what Gord Steeves said.
John Paskievich attended the presser on Tuesday and said even though he doesn’t plan to vote for the man, he thinks he deserves a break.
“His wife isn’t running for political office,” said Paskievich. “She’s a white, suburban woman who’s skittish downtown. A lot of people are skittish downtown.”
Scott MacKay with Probe Research thinks despite the social media flurry around Lorrie Steeves’ comments, Gord Steeves may not have alienated all of his voters.
"I think that for those that share these views of downtown and the view expressed by Gord Steeves’ wife, that it well help to solidify that vote,” said MacKay. “Whether or not it would attract new voters I am sort of dubious about that."