NEW YORK – Four participants in this year's contest for Mrs. America asked the executive director of the contest on Monday to apologize for accusations that he used racial slurs and stereotypes in a conversation at an event related to the contest.
The four women, three African-American and one white, spoke at a press conference in Manhattan with attorney Gloria Allred, accusing David Marmel of using racial language in Las Vegas in August.
Allred said that while his clients do not intend to file a lawsuit, they do want Marmel to apologize and implement an action plan that includes sensitivity training.
"They have decided that it would be a mistake to remain silent on this matter," Allred said. "They feel it is their duty to share what they claim was their experience, because they do not want next year's participants to be subjected to what they consider to be racially offensive and degrading comments that have hurt them and caused them so much pain."
The women said that at a pre-competition party, Marmel sat down with a group of four African-American contestants, including the three who spoke on Monday. The white competitor was also in the room, but behind Marmel, they said.
They said he started talking about what he had done for blacks, including the development of a program that recognized African-American achievements. But they said he also made negative comments about NFL players who knelt during the national anthem, as well as statements that black women should stop having so many babies with multiple parents and that those men were drug dealers and in jail .
They said he talked about his time as a baseball player in the 1960s and headed south, where there were signs prohibiting the entry of Jews and blacks. In telling that, he used the word N, they said.
Crissy Timpson, Mrs. New Jersey, said that the party was actually the second time she heard Marmel's comments, and that he had told them a couple of days before, when he arrived in Las Vegas for the contest.
"Originally, we were not going to say anything because we all thought who would believe us," he said. "If we showed up after the contest, people would think that we were just upset about not winning or locating as we wanted."
Shawn Marshall, vice president of the organization Mrs. America, vehemently rejected the accusations and said that Marmel did not use a language that should have been interpreted as offensive and told them about his life experiences with the African-American community.
Referring to the comments on the South, Marshall said that Marmel was reflecting that the signs also referred to him, since he is Jewish.
He said the women had asked Marmel to talk to them.
"If there's an apology, you owe Mr. Marmel," he said.
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