HUNTINGTON — A Huntington City Council candidate apologized this week for his use of the N-word in a 3-year-old video clip now being circulated online.
Aaron Michael Fox, a Democratic candidate running for the city’s District 3 seat, said he understands his use of the word was wrong and that he does not use it anymore.
The 1-minute clip is taken from a longer 44-minute video uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 18, 2016, by standup comedian Chris “Shank” Shanklin, of Huntington. It was part of a podcast that Shanklin filmed with Fox and his co-host, Eric Crusan. Shanklin uploaded the short clip to his Facebook page last week, where it has been viewed more than 1,000 times.
In the clip, Fox refers to a black-and-white cartoon hanging on his wall as “(N-word) Mickey.” Shanklin immediately said Fox cannot say that word on film and asks him to apologize to the black community. Fox apologizes twice, but clarifies that it was the nickname given to the cartoon.
When reached by phone Wednesday, Fox said the picture was of the “Merrie Melodies” character Foxy, who predates the creation of Mickey Mouse in the 1920s. He said Crusan, who is black, gave the cartoon that nickname.
“That’s a word that, in the past, I thought was OK to use under certain circumstances around people who I thought wouldn’t misconstrue my intentions,” he said. “I have since learned, unrelated to the video being posted, that it’s basically unacceptable to use under any circumstances anytime. So, I’ve removed it from my vocabulary.”
Fox said he should have clarified how the cartoon got its nickname.
“I said it wrong because I should have said, ‘Eric calls it that,’” Fox said. “That came out wrong. It’s not my name. It has nothing to do with me besides that Eric is my podcast partner, and he used that word on the podcast.”
Since the clip was posted, Fox said he’s gotten several messages from others and he has since clarified to them that Crusan created the nickname. Crusan, a standup comedian from Ironton, said Thursday that Fox was not saying the N-word in a malicious way. Fox is not racist and his use of the word was a failed attempt to be funny, he said.
Fox said the clip has resurfaced amid his candidacy for City Council because he recently had a falling out with Shanklin.
“Chris Shanklin and I have been friends for a long time. We are not friends now over an unrelated issue,” Fox said. “‘Shank’ never had a problem with me, and we remained friends for years after the fact. He’s only doing this because he’s mad over a separate issue that I don’t need to get into.”
Shanklin said he and Fox recently got into an argument over an image that Shanklin posted on Facebook involving former professional football player Michael Vick. It resulted in Fox blocking Shanklin on Facebook.
Shanklin decided to upload the video clip because he’s caught flak from members of the black community for not taking Fox to task for his use of the racial slur, he said. Shanklin said he initially laughed off Fox’s use of the word in the video clip to help diffuse the situation.
“If you look at the video, you can tell he never understood why he was wrong for saying that at all,” Shanklin said. “He never got it.”
He said he believes Fox should drop his candidacy for the city’s District 3 seat, which includes downtown from 1st to 18th streets, between the Ohio River and 8th Avenue.
“He should not be running for City Council,” he said. “He’s trying to represent something that has to do with the whole downtown area. I’m sorry, but he cannot represent that. So that’s why I’m putting that out there.”
Fox is also a standup comedian and a blogger who runs DowntownHuntington.net.
Democrat Samuel McGuffin has also filed to run for the District 3 seat. The seat is currently held by Alex Vence, a Democrat, who said he will not seek re-election.