Tommy Bryant is a city councilman in Tarrant, Alabama, who is facing backlash after using a racial slur during a meeting. Bryant, a 77-year-old Republican, says he isn’t resigning. Video of the meeting has gone viral on social media.
Bryant said the n-word during a contentious city council meeting on July 19, 2021. The meeting was streamed live on the city’s Facebook page and clips were posted on social media after, spreading the controversy outside of the city’s limits.
The controversy is the latest to roil Tarrant, a city of about 6,400 people in Jefferson County, just outside of Birmingham. According to the U.S. Census, Tarrant’s population was 53.1% Black in 2010. In 2000, the Black population made up 19.3% of the city.
The Daily Beast put a national spotlight on the city earlier in June 2021, publishing a report about a feud between the city’s first Black mayor, Wayman Newton, also a Republican, and its white now-former police chief, Dennis Reno, who has accused Newton of assaulting him, dividing the town. In that article, Bryant, identified as the city’s longest-serving councilman criticized Newton for, as The Daily Beast wrote, “trampling on the established ways of doing things.” Bryant told the news site, “He is a dictatorial person. Reminds me of Adolf Hitler.”
Here’s what you need to know about Alabama city councilman Tommy Bryant:
1. Video of the Meeting Shows Bryant Standing Up & Saying ‘Do We Have a House N***** in Here?’ While Defending His Wife Against Accusations She Made Racist Facebook Posts
A short video clip, which can be watched above, showing Bryant using the racial slur has gone viral. The video shows Bryant standing up and pointing in the direction of Newton and Black city council member Veronica Freeman and saying, “Do we have a house n***** in here?” People in the crowd can be heard gasping and one person says, “What the f***?” He then says, “Would she please stand up?”
Full video of the Tarrant city council meeting, which lasted more than 2 hours and 12 minutes, can be watched below. The incident that has gone viral begins about the 1 hour and 29-minute mark of the video, when a city resident addresses Bryant. About 10 minutes later, Bryant uses the slur.
The local resident, whose first name is Chuck, said he has known Bryant for many years and thinks Bryant has been a “punching bag” for the city council “quite often,” and said he finds it “odd that he does not try to defend himself when he has people who try to confront him. I know last city council he had … somebody who said they were from the LGBT community that addressed him directly and like I said, I don’t understand that. … I would like to give Mr. Bryant an opportunity to express himself. I hope he doesn’t just sit there. I’ve never known him to be a dishonorable man. I would like him to address some of the stuff that has been hurled at him.”
Bryant said, “We talk about the book, the Alabama League of Municipalities. The bickering, going back and forth between the individuals here, it really does not make a difference if the mayor was Black or white or whatever. The League states that we have a council of different individuals and these individuals have different ideas, and we express those ideas. We don’t always agree and if I don’t agree, if I have an idea of something and I heartily disagree with anybody on the council, I’m going to argue my point to the fullest. So, if everybody thinks that we all need to get along, the League itself says you’re not to do it.”
Bryant said he doesn’t dislike the mayor just because they bicker and disagree. “He’s a human, he has his thoughts and rights. And I have mine. He can do what he wants to and I don’t go home and saying, ‘I’m going to beat the fool out of him,’ or something like that,” Bryant said. “We can argue all day long, it does not mean that I’m hostile toward him.” He said he also doesn’t think the mayor is hostile toward him and they’re just playing politics.
Bryant added, “For all the people out there in Never-Never Land who think that the council is supposed to get along, no. … You’ve got different opinions and you’re going to express different opinions.” Bryant said he doesn’t defend himself because he thinks he’s going to be interrupted. “I usually just keep my mouth shut and don’t say anything. … I get interrupted, I’m not respected and nobody cares about what the law is, about what the rules are, they want to do their own thing in the city of Tarrant,” Bryant told Chuck.
Newton then raised the topic of Facebook posts by Bryant’s wife, Nancy Mahler Bryant, saying some of the backlash he’s receiving from citizens is because of her posts. As the mayor began to read some of the controversial posts, Bryant interrupted and asked him to leave his wife and family out of things. The mayor said, “Your wife speaks on your behalf.” He disagreed. Bryant said his wife hasn’t posted on Facebook in “quite a while.”
Someone in the audience then said that Bryant’s wife once used the n-word on Facebook. Bryant then slammed the table and said, “the n-word, let’s get to the n-word.” He then stood up and used the racial slur. Bryant explained that he was accusing Newton of calling Freeman that during executive session, and that he was repeating his words. Newton told AL.com that wasn’t true. “They are trying to expose me for saying something I did not say. All of that was a political stunt that they did not do very well,” Newton told the newspaper. Freeman left the July 19 meeting crying after Bryant’s comments, the video shows.
2. During the Meeting, Bryant Also Says Muslims Are Required by Their Faith to Kill Non-Muslims
Bryant is also coming under fire for comments he made about Muslims during the same meeting, which have been called ignorant and false on social media. Bryant, while talking before using the racial slur, began talking about how he disagrees with statements made by the city council at previous meetings to embrace everyone, regardless of race, religion or sexuality. Bryant said:
People made an accusation about me, she said something about LGBT whatever it is, anyway, as that was going on, I said no. And the mayor made a comment at our last council meeting that the council is not against the homosexual crowd or whatever. Let me say this, so you all understand. I am a combat-wounded veteran. In 1966 to 1968 I fought in a war. When I was in that war I fought for the United States of America and for the citizens. I did not fight for the Baptists, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the whites, the Blacks, the Hispanics, whatever. I fought for individuals. And when you’re talking about embracing everybody, and everybody here said yes, we all agreed to that and that was great. I don’t think you really understand what you were saying, what you were agreeing to.
Bryant said that one of his critics has identified as being Muslim, but he was corrected that she is Buddhist. He continued, “Let’s assume we have someone here that’s a Muslim. And we embrace the Muslims. If you know anything about the Muslim religion, if you’re not a Muslim, their religion says they need to kill you.” Someone in the audience interrupts and says, “Which means you know nothing about the Muslim religion.”
Bryant then began arguing that he was talking and was interrupted and said the city’s guidelines allow for someone to be removed by police if they interrupt a city council meeting. Newton, the mayor, said, “Y’all used to do that … removing people. We will not use our police to harass people. That’s where I draw the line.”
Bryant said, “That’s why I don’t comment. Because the mayor does not take care of business like the Alabama League of Municipalities says it’s supposed to be taken care of. I was talking to you and explaining something. If someone wants to get the Qu’ran and read it, or I can get it and show you what it says.”
Bryant said, “I’m going to offend a lot of people. I don’t meant to do it like this, but we want to embrace everybody. You got a bunch here from the KKK, are you going to embrace them? Ain’t happening. … So you see, I don’t agree with embracing everybody. I embrace an individual. If you are a Muslim, I embrace you because you’re an individual, not because you belong to that group.”
Bryant then pointed to a woman in the crowd and said, “You say you’re a homosexual, a lesbian.” She responded, “I didn’t say that.” Bryant then said, “Let’s say someone here is that. I don’t embrace them because of their sexuality or their preference, I embrace them as an individual. So when someone comes up and says let’s embrace everybody, the answer is no. I don’t embrace everybody, I embrace an individual.”
3. Bryant Has Defended Using the Slur, Says He Won’t Resign & Says He Could Run for Mayor
Bryant has not apologized for using the racial slur and has said he won’t resign. In an interview with WVTM, Bryant said, “I thought it would be proper to go ahead and bring it to light as to what happened in a executive session earlier.”
Bryant said, “I understand that people had their feelings hurt with that, but think about this. Veronica’s feelings were hurt very, very bad.” When asked if he would resign, Bryant told the news station, “Oh absolutely not. Absolutely not. I may consider running for mayor next time.” When asked if he was a racist, Bryant told WVTM, “A racist? It’s according to what your definition of the word racist is. What the public’s definition is, I might be a racist. But according to what the true meaning of what a racist is, absolutely not.” He also told the news station he wouldn’t change what he did, saying, “I did what needed to be done.”
Newton told AL.com about the accusations that he called Freeman a “house n*****” during executive session, and that Bryant was repeating the phrase, “I never used that phrase to speak about her. Ask them to produce the video. They record everything. They should have their own recording. They want me out. He (Bryant) wants to run for mayor.”
4. Bryant Was Re-Elected to the City Council to Represent District 5 in 2020 & He Has Been Involved in Local Politics for Several Years
Bryant, whose full name is John Thomas Bryant, was re-elected to the five-person city council in 2020 to represent district five. He has served on the city council for more than 12 years and has lived in Tarrant for most of his life, according to The Daily Beast. Bryant defeated Jameka Wright in the District 5 election by a total of 87 votes to 59 votes in August 2020, according to Bama Politics.
Bryant previously accused Newton of challenging him to a fight. According to The Daily Beast, Newton, the city’s Black mayor, admitted to using foul language with Bryant on one occasion in private, after he said Bryant called him “boy.” Newton told the news site in June, “I’m a 40-year-old Black man with an Ivy League degree and I graduated from a top-10 law school. I’m more than qualified to be the mayor of Tarrant. Do you really think that I would say something like that at a public meeting? … If you know anything about the history of the South and race relations, to have some 75-year-old man calling a 40-year-old Black man a boy is very insulting.”
Bryant told The Daily Beast he called Newton a “little boy,” and said, “I was trying to piss him off to see if he’d come after me.” Newton said he’s trying to improve the city, while Bryant is “longing for a time that was.”
5. Bryant Is Facing Calls to Resign From the Alabama Democratic Party, While the Alabama Republican Party Issued a Statement Calling Bryant’s Words ‘Completely Unacceptable & Even More Concerning Coming From an Elected Official’
The Alabama Democratic Party issued a statement saying, “Last night, Tarrant City Council Member John “Tommy” Bryant stood up and used the N word at a City Council Meeting. He is a racist and unfit to serve. He now joins fellow racists and Republicans Rep. Will Dismukes, Blount County Commissioner Dean Calvert as embarrassments to Alabama and the Republican party. All Alabamians should be calling on Republican political leaders like Governor Kay Ivey and US Senate Candidate Katie Britt to demand the immediate resignation of these overt racists.
The statement added, “Alabama still has a long way to go when it comes to race, but cozying up to the KKK and using the N word should make you unfit to serve. These racists belong in the history books with Bull Connor and George Wallace, not on the taxpayer’s payroll.”
The Alabama Republican Party also issued a statement about Bryant’s remarks, saying, “The Alabama Republican Party is deeply troubled by the racially charged outburst, and disrespect shown by Councilman Tommy Bryant. Such language is completely unacceptable in any setting, and even more concerning coming from an elected official. We are proud to have Mayor Wayman Newton as a member of the Jefferson County Republican Party, and we stand behind him 100%.”
Bryant is also facing calls for resignation from his fellow council members. Tracie Threadford said in a statement, “Tommy Bryant is a distraction to all the change to our city and he needs to resign.”