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O.C. Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer defends repeating N-word when quoting hate speech

Orange County D.A. Todd Spitzer speaks at outdoor news conference.
Orange County D.A. Todd Spitzer at a kickoff event for his reelection campaign on Jan. 26 in La Palma.
(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer is facing increasing scrutiny after a video of him saying the N-word while describing two racist incidents surfaced this week.

Spitzer repeated the slur during a speech he delivered to the Iranian American Bar Assn. in November 2019, outlining the rise in hate crimes in Orange County and describing several cases his office had recently prosecuted. The presentation was recorded and posted to YouTube.

As Spitzer described a hate crime that occurred in Fullerton in 2018, he quoted the epithets that a man he described as a white supremacist hurled at a Black woman.

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“There’s no kids here so I’m good, I guess,” Spitzer said to the roomful of lawyers.

Then, he quoted the white supremacist: “‘Hey you f— n—, I’m going to drop your baby, because n— shouldn’t have babies,’” Spitzer said.

Spitzer uttered both the N-word and f— in their entireties.

The video comes on the heels of racist comments Spitzer allegedly made while discussing the case of a Black murder defendant.

Spitzer, who is running for a second term as Orange County district attorney against two challengers, has faced a loss of political support and calls to resign since the alleged comments came to light last week.

In a statement provided to The Times on Wednesday, Spitzer defended using the N-word in his speech to the Iranian American group.

“Hate is ugly and the words haters use and the violence they commit is even uglier,” he said. “It is hard to hear and it is hard to look at, but unless we confront it head on, hate will continue to fester and people of color will continue to suffer at the hands of haters.”

He added that he’s “incredibly proud of the work we do to prosecute hate crimes and keep Orange County safe for everyone” and that he “will not be deterred from that important work by disingenuous political attacks.”

In his speech to the Iranian American attorneys, Spitzer also described an incident where a white man messaged a biracial couple.

He repeated the message to the attorneys: “‘You and your n— can eff off, race traitor.’”

Spitzer said the N-word in its entirety but an abbreviation for f—. He also repeated a slur for a homosexual person and a slur for a person of Middle Eastern descent when describing other hate incidents, the video showed.

Letitia Clark, a Black woman and a Tustin City Council member, said there’s no reason Spitzer should be saying the N-word. She added that his use of it could make it seem more acceptable to others.

“I know Todd, and I would tell him if you haven’t been called that, then you don’t know how stinging it is to hear,” she said. “He shouldn’t feel comfortable using it. It almost gives the public the perception maybe it is used more casual settings.”

John Taylor, an attorney representing the family of Kurt Reinhold, an unarmed Black man fatally shot by an Orange County sheriff’s deputy, said it was “unbelievable that he word checks himself when saying the F-word but has no problem letting the racial slurs roll off his tongue.”

Spitzer declined to file criminal charges last week against the deputy who shot Reinhold in San Clemente in 2020.

“Don’t you wonder where O.C. law enforcement gets its green light to mistreat minorities when leadership sounds like this?” Taylor said.

Others in the legal community have come to Spitzer’s defense, saying the video clips on social media don’t provide the full context.

Spitzer wasn’t expressing his own opinions but quoting racists to prove a point, said former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

Cooley said he rejects the idea that Spitzer is a racist, calling it “another attempt by the [George] Soros-backed challenger and those disgruntled in his ranks from the prior D.A. holdovers.”

Darlene Futrel, president of the Orange County chapter of the National Action Network, questioned Spitzer’s judgment in repeating the slurs. Activists have called for Spitzer to resign and for state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta to review cases prosecuted by his office that involved people of color.

“The only reason I could think that he would be comfortable saying that is if that’s his native language,” she said. “That word was coming off his mouth very easily. The second thing was that he was in a room full of lawyers, and nobody seemed to be bothered by it. I would have walked out.”

Spitzer told the attorneys that he showed up at a court hearing to fight what he thought was an unfairly light sentence in the Fullerton case.

The defendant, Tyson Theodore Mayfield, ran up to a Black woman at a bus stop, a swastika tattoo on his abdomen showing, then launched into his racist invective.

The judge had originally sought to sentence Mayfield to two years in prison.

After Spitzer’s objection, the judge gave Mayfield a five-year sentence. Spitzer appealed, and a higher court reversed the lower court judge’s sentence.

“This is the kind of guy you don’t want on the street for as long as possible,” Spitzer said in the video, adding that Mayfield was the “poster child for hate” in Orange County.

The video comes at a politically charged time for Spitzer.

An internal memo made public last week details comments Spitzer made during an Oct. 1 meeting with top prosecutors about whether to pursue the death penalty against a Black defendant, Jamon Buggs.

Spitzer said Black men dated white women to “get themselves out of their bad circumstances and bad situations,” according to the memo by then-prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh, who was fired by Spitzer this month.

Spitzer told The Times that Baytieh misquoted him, and he actually described Black men’s motivation in dating white women as improving “their stature in the community.”

Spitzer apologized on Monday, saying that he “used an example that was insensitive.”


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