Mayor Joseph Maturo’s quasi-Face the State Interview

Following last week’s media firestorm for his derogatory taco comment, East Haven, CT’s Mayor Joseph Maturo appeared on this past Sunday’s Face the State in hopes of repairing his and his town’s damaged reputation. However, rather than using the opportunity to fully expound on the question he was asked during the infamous interview that started the spiral – What do you plan to do for the Latino community? – Maturo spent the better part of his interview trying to over-explain why he said he’d eat tacos, as a solution to the racial profiling issues perpetrated by the East Haven police force and the town; even while stating he wanted to move on from the “whirlwind of negativity” associated with the comment.

Maturo attributed the insensitive quip to stress from having done too many interviews in one day, it being late in the afternoon, and said in hindsight he should’ve been “more astute and called a press conference” to address the matter. While acknowledging how much of an ignoramus he presented himself to be, Maturo still seemed to be in denial about the pattern of police harassment and bigotry that has plagued the town of East Haven for years (under Police Chief Leonard Gallo’s watch), notwithstanding the fact that they’re documented in the press and by racial injustice advocates (including the New Haven chapter of the NAACP): “In all my years as mayor, I’ve never heard one complaint about police profiling,” Maturo insists; Further claiming that he had “inherited” the problems and was instrumental in helping encourage the recruitment of minority officers on the force, because they had none.

Joseph Maturo maintained that he grew up and is a product of the town of East Haven and- (while most minority residents would beg to differ) – that it’s a “hardworking, blue-collar, and safe community” that welcomes everybody. Maturo was emphatic about there being zero racism in his town. He also stood by his decision to reinstate East Haven Police Chief, Leonard Gallo (who has sense tendered his resignation, effective February 3, and will likely face a federal lawsuit himself).

Mayor Maturo said the police department is already making progress since the federal arrests and when Denis House revisited the question- What will you do for the Latino community? – the mayor seemed to struggle with his answer… saying that he’s reaching out via community leaders, has formed a committee, is attempting to become more of a physical presence in the Latino community, and looking to change the language on the complaint form, because the English-to-Spanish translation is wrong.  When prodded, once again, about the culture of racism in his town and especially on its police force, Maturo continued to struggle with the difficult reality many minorities have faced trying to navigate the town of East Haven, stuttering his way around the issue… insisting that they simply don’t exist because he hasn’t witnessed it. He even claimed that he’s hoping to become a better leader following his very public shortcomings as an elected official gaffe. In order to become a better leader, Maturo would need to acknowledge the marginalization of minorities and immigrant groups in East Haven and stop insisting that they’re non-issues because he hasn’t seen them with his own eyes and stop trying to deflect his culpability in the mess. Maturo can’t lead a town mired in bigotry, towards progress until he realizes that the problems are indeed, very real. It’s like the blind trying to shepherd the blind.

Even while presented with the cold-hard facts… in writing… Joseph Maturo still can’t seem to bring himself to admit or even will any of them into existence (in his mind). He refused to believe the allegations of racism, which prompted his friend Leonard Gallo’s suspension in 2010, and unwisely reinstated him upon becoming mayor of East Haven again; and even now, calls Gallo’s resignation a “selfless act, designed to assist in the healing process.”

As was pointed out,  Maturo’s affinity for tacos should be the least of his or his town’s worries and his comments mimic those of any other person, trying to prove that we live in a post-racial society sans xenophobia and discrimination: “There can’t possibly be racism… I have a (insert minority) friend and the POTUS is Black…”


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