A Lowell School Committee member said Friday he was resigning his post effective immediately, and apologized for using an anti-Semitic slur on live cable television Wednesday.
Robert Hoey Jr., 66, a retired correctional officer, announced his resignation in a Facebook video, clad in an Army sweatshirt while standing between two slabs of rock, since, he said, he’s caught between “a rock and a hard place.”
“As of today, I’m resigning from the Lowell School Committee,” Hoey said, one day after telling the Globe he wouldn’t step down despite calls from local officials for him to resign. “Ooh, does that hurt. Because I love to advocate for teachers, students, families.”
Hoey made the offensive comment in a question during a live episode of “City Life.” He used the offensive term, then appeared to quickly try to rephrase his statement. A video clip of the statement was posted online Wednesday accompanying a report by The Jewish Journal.
“We lost the k—, oh, I mean the Jewish guy,” Hoey said. “I hate to say it, but that’s what people used to say behind his back. … He was the guy in charge of our budget.”
Hoey said in his resignation video Friday, “if you don’t condemn the word I said, then shame on you. … Condemn this word. Condemn what I said.”
He said he was “so sorry” to the former Lowell Public Schools employee he disparaged with the slur.
“I’m sorry I said that n-word,” he said in an apparent reference to an anti-Black slur, which he didn’t use during the TV appearance. “And I promise I’ll never [say] that word again. Ever again. … But this word, the k-word that I said and hurt that person, let me tell you something, nothing’s ever hurt me as much as that.”
Hoey’s use of the slur was condemned by city leaders, including Mayor John Leahy, who chairs both the city council and school committee, and at least one school committee member. The two panels were scheduled to meet in a special joint session on Monday to consider a resolution calling for Hoey to resign and a separate measure to condemn his comments and reaffirm the city’s commitment to equity and inclusion.
Robert Trestan, director of the New England chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a phone interview Friday that he welcomed Hoey’s resignation.
“His resignation offers the community an opportunity to heal and come together,” Trestan said. “And there’s an educational opportunity here that everyone in Lowell should embrace, to dig deep and ask themselves some hard questions. … There’s an opportunity here for the students of Lowell to take the lead and to really make a clear statement that no form of hate, whether in public or private, is welcome in Lowell.”
Trestan also said the city as a whole shouldn’t be judged by the actions of one person.
“We know that forms of hate exist in every corner of every community,” Trestan said. “We shouldn’t judge Lowell by the words of one person. Let’s judge Lowell by how they embrace this learning opportunity and reaffirm their community’s moral compass.”
Hoey didn’t go into detail Friday on his abrupt decision to resign after previously vowing he would not only remain in the seat but also seek a fifth term.
He did say, however, that he had just gotten off the phone with the superintendent and another official.
“I had a tough time, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “ … We can’t be saying the k-words, the n-words, the s-words, the h-words. We just can’t be doing it no more.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.