A white man confronted a black Georgia state lawmaker in front of reporters Saturday and denied her accusation that he told her to “go back where you came from” during an argument in a supermarket checkout lane a day earlier.
Eric Sparkes that he cursed at state Rep. Erica Thomas for taking too many items into an express checkout lane but denied making the racially charged comment after showing up in the middle of a television news interview featuring Thomas outside the Atlanta-area Publix store where the confrontation occurred.
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“Did I say that? Is it on video??” Sparkes asked Thomas in front of reporters, before admitting to calling her lazy.
“That’s all you said to me?” Thomas asked. “OK, because that makes you look better because everybody’s after you now.”
Sparkes later told WSB-TV he is a Democrat of Cuban descent and that Thomas’s allegations are politically motivated. Thomas said she will notify the police and will seek store video of the incident.
In a statement, Publix supermarket said it is “cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter.”
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In a tearful video Thomas posted to Facebook, she said she was with her young daughter in the market Friday and admitted to having more than 10 items in the supermarket’s express lane.
“I decided to go live because I’m very upset because people are getting really out of control with this, with this white privilege stuff,” she said. “I’m at the grocery and I’m in … the aisle that says ’10 Items or Less.’ Yes, I have 15 items, but I’m nine months pregnant and I can’t stand up for long. And this white man comes up to me and says, ‘You lazy son of a b—h… You need to go back where you came from.'”
The incident came days after President Trump tweeted that four minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places” they came from and then “come back and show us how it is done.”
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Those remarks were later adapted by his supporters at a rally earlier this week where they chanted “send her back” at his mention of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
In her video, Thomas accused Trump of inciting hate. During the television interview Saturday, she said Sparkes “needs to be held accountable because people can’t just go out and berate pregnant women.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.