A man has admitted cursing at a pregnant black Georgia lawmaker for taking too many items into a supermarket express lane but denies telling her “go back where you came from.”
Eric Sparkes showed up during a television interview with Republican state representative from Georgia, Erica Thomas, on Saturday, outside the Atlanta-area Publix store where the incident allegedly occurred, the station reported.
Sparkes denied making any racially charged comment, saying “I am Cuban”. Thomas confronted Sparkes in front of reporters and said he had “degraded and berated” her.
In a tearful Facebook video posted on Friday, Thomas said she had been in the express line at the store because she was nine months pregnant and could not stand for long.
“And this white man comes up to me and says: ‘You lazy son of a bitch,”’ Thomas said, sobbing as she described the confrontation in the video. “He says: ‘You lazy son of a bitch; you need to go back where you came from.”’
Thomas’s video went viral and the hashtag #IStandwithErica trended on Twitter. On Saturday, Sparkes told reporters he called her a vulgarity but did not say anything racial. Thomas said Sparkes was just trying to make himself look better.
Sparkes said he was a Democrat and was being unjustly attacked for political purposes.
Thomas said on Friday that she never identified herself to Sparkes as a public official. She said she was so taken aback by his actions that she didn’t think to try to record them. She said she notified police and will seek store video.
In a statement, Publix has said the company was “cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter.”
The incident came days after President Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of colour, including Somali-born Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, should go back to the “broken and crime-infested” countries they came from.
In her video, Thomas alluded to those attacks and accused the president of inciting hatred. During the television interview, she said Sparkes “needs to be held accountable because people can’t just go out and berate pregnant women.”