Interview: L. Brooks Patterson on 'New Yorker' article

Oakland County executive talks about his controversial Detroit comments printed in magazine article

By Mara MacDonald - Reporter

PONTIAC, Mich. - The article which appeared in The New Yorker magazine sure set tones wagging around Metro Detroit.

In many ways, it's an amalgamation of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's one-liners over the years delivered, he says, without the backstory.

He says he has nothing to apologize for.

It was the usual: Detroit is dangerous, it's been run into the ground. However, the Indian reservation line he first uttered 30-plus years ago sparked some real outrage.

"I made a prediction a long time ago, and it's come to pass. I said, 'What we're going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.'"

That's from the article. Patterson has since learned more about why it might be very offensive to some.

"I met with an Indian chief a couple days ago and he explained to me why the Indians took such umbrage with that comment," said Patterson.

The Oakland County leader said he didn't realize that the U.S. government soaked blankets in smallpox before handing them out to Indians in the past. For that he's contrite, but as for calls from some such as NAACP Detroit President Wendell Anthony saying he is racially divisive:

"I'd like to hold up the plaque I got from Wendell about 10 years ago, the NAACP gave me an award and Wendell was there, 'Hey Wendell, remember this?'" said Patterson.

Patterson said he will seek one more term. Does this article impact his legacy?

"I think it will be in every obit, but they will bring in all the other things, 'Back in 2014, once again he put his foot in his month,'" he joked. "No, I just think I'm balanced. I'll be seen as an innovator, a very good manager, a guy that brought the very best team in government together. Gave them their head, then was smart enough to get out of the way."

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