Norfolk councilman speaks out after making controversial comments at meeting

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk City Councilman Paul Riddick is under fire for what he said during a City Council work session.

Riddick, who represents the predominately African American Ward 4, has explaining to do after what came out of his mouth. He admits his language sounded offensive, although says he did not mean it to be racist.

10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox has more on the controversial comments.

On Tuesday, there was an electronic work session at Norfolk City Hall. Riddick’s comment came after a discussion on COVID-19 assistance. Staff told council they were reaching out to Chinese and Latino business owners due to language barriers for COVID-19 assistance.

Riddick questioned why the city was reaching out to Chinese restaurant owners.

“Jared [Chalk, interim director of development] was talking about calling every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk. Chinese don’t need any money. They are making money hand over fist, and they always have been. They don’t hire blacks. They don’t give anything back to the community,” Riddick said.

Councilman Tommy Smigiel took offense.

“Mr. Riddick, I’m really upset with your comments that you made about Chinese families. I don’t know if those were your intentions,” Smigiel said.

Smigiel told his own story about hard-working Chinese business owners.

“I have two Chinese students whose parents own Chinese restaurants in Norfolk that had to shut down their business because of comments our president made, and the racial threats they received at their restaurants,” he said. 

Riddick started re-emphasizing his argument he’s given before, that African Americans are neglected in Norfolk.

“And you wonder why blacks burn down these cities, it’s because we are in a position to help and we don’t do anything, and this is what happens in Norfolk. We don’t do anything to help the small black business,” he said.

Smigiel cautioned Riddick about “putting down” any group of people in the city during this time.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Riddick. I know what you are saying about our black community…but I don’t believe that was fair for your judgment on our Chinese community in Norfolk, and I would be very careful of putting down any cultures in our city of Norfolk at this time.” 

At that point Riddick softened.

“If I said that, I did not mean it to sound racist, but as I look back at it, it does sound racist… but Chinese restaurants don’t need any money… I apologize if it sounds like that. It sounds racist, and as I think about it, it probably did sound racist,” he said.

Coming up tonight on WAVY News 10 at 5, hear more from Riddick and what he said that caught everybody by surprise.


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