North Adams, Massachusetts City Councilor Robert Moulton has resigned. The two-time mayoral candidate faced outcry after claiming last week that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization and that the threat of COVID-19 has been exaggerated by politicians.
Moulton made the remarks on his long-running Northern Berkshire Community Television show “Let’s Talk About It” on July 21st. He began with the Black Lives Matter movement, whose followers he described as “moronic.”
“The Black Life Matter – don’t agree with it," said Moulton. "I don’t think people know what it is. It seems like that’s this month’s flavor. It’s a terrorist organization. They want to get rid of the family.”
He then said that COVID-19 had been overblown for political purposes by state and local leaders like Mayor Tom Bernard and Governor Charlie Baker, calling New York Governor Andrew Cuomo “the biggest killer since the virus came out." Moulton also described the pandemic to co-host Ed Morandi as “minuscule.”
“I bet if you had a five pound bag of sugar and you took one grain out I bet you that one person would be the 13 million COVID patients and the rest of the population of the world,” said the former councilor. “And that made sense to me, because I kept trying to count and I kept losing track.”
Current estimates show that COVID-19 has killed around 650,000 people worldwide.
Reaction to the statements was swift. Other councilors and members of the public expressed outrage on social media. Two days later, Moulton resigned as president of the Northern Berkshire EMS board of directors at an emergency meeting. Amid calls from the community for his resignation from the city council and school committee – who both began moving to censure him – Moulton resigned from both positions in a short letter to city hall Monday morning.
“He had a weekend to reflect. He knew that these two actions were pending, and that can’t have been easy," said Mayor Tom Bernard, who also serves as the chair of the city’s school committee. “It certainly wasn’t easy to make the decision to take the step to call for a special meeting and plan to introduce a resolution to censure.”
He tells WAMC that the episode underscores the need for dialogue in North Adams, saying that everyone has work to do.
“People on both sides were hurting and nobody felt heard, so I think we have a responsibility to keep talking, to look at the work that is coming through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion group, working group of the council, and other efforts in the city," said Bernard. "And we have to keep having dialogue so that issues like systemic racism, issues of why saying Black Lives Matter or All Lives Can’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter is important.”
Raymond Moore, an activist who is involved in both the local Black Lives Matter group and the Northern Berkshire International Partnership nonprofit, had called for Moulton’s resignation. Moore described Moulton’s exit as the outcome of the community working together.
“It’s a victory for the children," he told WAMC. "We want to protect our children from his beliefs and his thinking, and that’s what the community did. We came out, we voiced our opinion, we let him know that what we wanted – and what we don’t want in the town was that hate and that racist bigotry.”
Plans to replace Moulton on the city council and school committee have not yet been announced.
Moulton did not respond to request for comment on this story.