Lowell School Committee member resigns after calling a former employee a “kike” on live TV
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 [email protected].
This story was originally published on JewishJournal.org and has been reposted with permission.