KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In a statement to 41 Action News, Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp's family said the comment shouldn't have happened but defended Klemp's character.
Klemp has faced criticism for a comment he made to a black woman during a meeting Tuesday.
“I don’t want you to think I am picking on you because we are part of the master race,” Klemp said to the woman after her presentation. “You have a gap in your teeth. We are part of the master race, don’t you forget that.”
A family member who asked not to be named told 41 Action News that Klemp has done many good things for the community and that "color has never been a part of those efforts."
The statement read:
"The comment should not have been made. Mr. Klemp now (80) loves his community. He has spent years coaching, volunteering time within the community, working with local taxpayers on their taxes, providing a helping hand to those in need, listening and participating in all things Leavenworth and color has never been a factor."
On Friday, Leavenworth County Administrator Mark Loughry put out a statement saying that although he wasn't defending Klemp, he felt "what is being reported in the media is not an accurate representation of what was said during our meeting."
Loughry went on to explain that Klemp was saying he and the woman were both parts of the "master race" because they both have a gap in their teeth. Loughry also said he has heard Klemp refer to people with gaps in their teeth as the "master race" on several occasions.
Loughry's full statement can be read below:
To whom it may concern;
Commissioner Louis Klemp holds an elected position on the Board of County Commissioners and therefore I have no jurisdiction over his term in office. The Kansas Attorney General or the Leavenworth County Attorney are responsible for fielding complaints about elected officials. That being said I would encourage all to watch the actual video of the exchange versus the parsed and paraphrased comments circulated by the media.
The full video of the conversation is available at https://youtu.be/UbTbg05LN2w?list=PLBwqXhP4EtoZmRBJh2ojytn0Wm1XjeIDk [youtu.be] . The conversation in question begins at about 1:02 in the clip. Watch the video and form your own opinion about what was said.
I will not attempt to defend Commissioner Klemp as he holds an elected position and is capable of defending any of his statements or fielding any calls for his ouster. I will say though that what is being reported in the media is not an accurate representation of what was said during our meeting. Commissioner Klemp has a gap in his front teeth and so did the person presenting to the Commission on Tuesday. On several occasions over the past year Mr. Klemp has made reference that those with a gap in their front teeth are members of the master race. At Tuesday’s meeting he stated that he and the lady presenting to the Board were both members of the master race due to the gap in their teeth.
The use of the term “Master Race”, as ill-advised as it may be, was not a reference to Nazis or used in a racist manner in this instance. Leavenworth County has a zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in any form from any staff members. I am deeply sorry that one misconstrued comment by a member of our elected governing body has caused so much grief, sorrow and hatred. Leavenworth County is a wonderful place to live and visit and I am proud to call it my home.
Mark Loughry, CPM
Leavenworth County Administrator
Since making the comments Tuesday, Klemp has faced calls for his resignation from his fellow commissioners and Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger.
News of the comment also sparked attention from across the country.
On Friday, several business owners in downtown Leavenworth said they were tired of the controversy.
“I was very upset,” said Dawn Monroe, who has owned a downtown bakery for more than 20 years. “I’ve had my business and I’ve built my business up. I don’t want people thinking they can’t come to Leavenworth because of that.”
Monroe said she hoped Klemp would resign and help put the matter in the past.
“This is going back to the old age. You just don’t talk like that anymore,” she said. “As far as taking care of our community, we need to move forward.”
Developments in the incident could come during the county commission’s next meeting.
It will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.