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"I was stupid": City council chair apologises for "beautiful" racist slurs

The city official said last week that the n-word and a derogatory term for Finland's Roma minority were normal terms that he intended to continue using.

Kouvolan kaupungintalo
Kouvola city hall. Image: Kari Saastamoinen / Yle

The chair of the Kouvola city council in southeast Finland, Jouko Leppänen, has apologised for the confusion and disappointment caused by Facebook comments in which he used racist slurs including the "n" word as well a derogatory term for Finland’s Roma minority.

In defence of the terms that he used about one week ago, Leppänen had written that they were perfectly normal and even "beautiful" words that he intended to continue using.

"It seems utterly inconceivable that in our country, because of coddling, we are forbidden to use terms such as [n-word] ...," the 61-year-old wrote two Saturdays ago, adding that the country's deterioration could be linked to "the suffocation caused by stupid rules and prohibitions" -- largely at the hands of liberals who had been given too much power.

Yle reported last Monday that Facebook deleted the post because it apparently violated their terms relating to the use of derogatory language.

However on Monday evening the National Coalition Party politician took to the social media site to write that he would no longer be using the expressions.

"I no longer wish to explore the idea that I proposed in my writings because apparently it was a bad idea. It resulted in mortification, which goes against my nature and my aspirations and I see that I was stupid and thoughtless," Leppänen said in the update.

Scandal hits parish and party

Leppänen’s choice of words whipped up a furore among members of the Kouvola church council of which he is also a member. Council member Jutta Hartikainen called on the city council chair to apologise for his choice of words.

"It’s not at all pleasant to work with someone who uses these kinds of expressions about certain segments of society. It was not appropriate language [to use] in a civilised society," Hartikainen told Yle last week.

Taina Vainio, a coordinator of Kouvola’s multicultural centre Saaga also commented on the incident.

"It was rather sad to read that the chair of a city council thinks that [the term] is normal language and that he intends to use it although efforts have been made to ban it using "liberal nonsense". It kind of makes you speechless," Vainio remarked.

National Coalition Party communications chief Kirsi Hölttä also condemned Leppänen’s language, saying that his comments do not represent the views of the party.

"The National Coalition Party’s fundamental position is that we must refer to all people respectfully. We think it is wrong to use [that word]," she added last week.

Vicar of the Kuusankoski parish in Kouvola, Kimmo Ylikangas had come out in Leppänen’s defence last week, saying that he did not believe that the city councillor’s comments contained any racist motives.

"I know Leppänen. He is a very sincere and just man. It is difficult to see him as a racist. Maybe it’s good to talk about how it is not appropriate to use such words, which can give the wrong impression. But I hardly think this would be a matter to be raised at a meeting," Ylikangas told Yle last week.

Leppänen could not be reached for comment when Yle first reported on the matter last Monday.

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