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After slur, Tampa City Council member pledges unity

A day after an anti-Semitic comment, Orlando Gudes says he wants to build a city for everyone.
Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes, shown here during a June meeting, apologized Thursday for the "distraction" he made by using an anti-Semitic slur a day before.
Tampa City Council member Orlando Gudes, shown here during a June meeting, apologized Thursday for the "distraction" he made by using an anti-Semitic slur a day before. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Jan. 30, 2020|Updated Jan. 30, 2020

TAMPA — The day after he uttered an anti-Semitic phrase, Orlando Gudes apologized for the “distraction” at a Tampa City Council meeting.

The first-term council member later pledged on a radio broadcast that he would lead efforts to educate people to stop using phrases like “getting Jewed.”

And City Council chairman Luis Viera issued a statement condemning Gudes’ comment and saying he had confidence his colleague would “make this right.”

Gudes’ day of damage control began shortly after the invocation to start Thursday’s City Council workshop. He made a two-minute statement addressing a comment he made to a Tampa Bay Times reporter the day before.

Related: Gudes uses anti-Semitic slur

Gudes, 52, told an audience made up mostly of firefighters there for an award ceremony that Wednesday had been a “dark day," but he was cheered by the “light” he saw in the council chambers.

As an African American man, he said, he has faced “a great amount of discrimination,” and those who know him best know he doesn’t hold prejudice or hostility against anyone.

A day earlier, Gudes was speaking to a Times reporter about what he considered high construction costs for an East Tampa community center.

“We’re getting Jewed,” he said.

The phrase implies Jewish people practice dishonest or overly aggressive business dealings.

Gudes quickly retracted his words and later said he did not intend them as a slur against Jewish people. He said he was sorry he used the term.

At Thursday’s meeting, Gudes said the council is focused on making the city a better place.

“I apologize for the distraction,” he said. "My plan for the city of Tampa is to build a more unified city, a city we all love and are proud to call our own.”

Gudes pledged to “work on behalf on everyone regardless of where they live, who they love, or where they worship.”

None of the other council members present at the meeting commented on Gudes’ statement. Viera was absent because of a medical appointment.

Later Thursday, Gudes appeared on the radio station WMNF and addressed the issue in more depth.

He agreed with “Midpoint” show host Rochelle Reback that his use of the slur was a teachable moment.

“My goal is now to make sure I educate the community,” he said. “We can get rid of these old terms. These old adages.”

Members of the Jewish community reached out to him and invited him to meet with Jewish leaders, he said. And he said he would be leading efforts to help train city workers in diversity issues.

Viera, the council chairman, echoed those sentiments Thursday, saying it was Gudes’ obligation to change attitudes.

“This term was morally deplorable and wrong and can never be tolerated. I know Councilman Gudes personally and I know his heart. The man I know will make this right. Many of us grew up with terms that are deplorable and it is our duty to change both our habits and our hearts,” Viera wrote in a text.

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