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Tanner apologizes for saying he liked his coffee ‘Mary Frances Berry style — black and bitter.’

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"Tanner apologizes for saying he liked his coffee ‘Mary Frances Berry style — black and bitter.’"

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berry.jpgEarlier this week, the Justice Department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility released a report laying out former official Bradley Schlozman’s illegal and illicit activities at the department. In one particularly “horrifying” incident described in the report, Scholzman forwarded around an e-mail from then-Voting Section Chief John Tanner that contained a racial remark about an African-American colleague:

In that incident in August 2004, Voting Section Chief John Tanner sent an e-mail to Schlozman asking Schlozman to bring coffee for him to a meeting both were scheduled to attend. Schlozman replied asking Tanner how he liked his coffee. Tanner’s response was, “Mary Frances Berry style – black and bitter.” Berry is an African-American who was the Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from November 1993 until late 2004. Schlozman forwarded the e-mail chain to several Department officials (including Principal DAAG Bradshaw) but not Acosta, with the comment, “Y’all will appreciate Tanner’s response.” Acosta said that when he was made aware of the incident, he required Schlozman to make a written apology to him for his role in forwarding the e-mail and that Schlozman did so.

TPMmuckraker reports today that Tanner has sent a letter of apology to Berry, claiming that he only used the phrase because he had recently heard an African-American customer at a coffee shop order coffee “black and sweet — like me.”

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