Burns won’t resign despite Democrats’ calls for him to step aside over calls to radio show

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with more from Burns’ statement Monday.

By Gloria Lloyd
News Editor
glorialloyd@callnewspapers.com

Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton, said he will not step down from office despite Democratic leaders and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill calling for him to resign last week due to his support for a radio-show host known for making racist statements.

Burns told the Call, “I have no intention of resigning.”

The calls for Affton lawmaker Burns, 69, to resign came after he repeatedly called in to the radio show of Bob Romanik, a “shock jock” on KQQZ-AM in Fairview Heights, Illinois, who is known for racist rants.

Audio uploaded to YouTube juxtaposes a recording of Romanik repeating racial slurs on air with audio of Burns calling in and saying, “You’re saying the correct things, people are supporting you. You support the military, and I support the military. God bless America, our flag, so many things about this country.”

The YouTube audio was edited, and Burns said his statements were taken out of context. But he told the host that he was a frequent listener.

Burns is often seen with his wife at his side at events, and she was by his side as he gave a press conference in Jefferson City Monday.

“This is a case of some things I said on different topics that were taken out of context mixed together by others to purposely mislead the public,” Burns said. “I do not condone the rants, negative comments of the radio commentator, and our opinions are greatly different on many topics.”

He only called in to talk about police and military issues, he added.

“None of my words were offensive or demeaning,” Burns said. “I feel that they were purposefully edited to appear so. Those who know me and know my work know that I am respectful in my speech and respectful to others…. I am deeply sorry that my words or actions have offended many of my colleagues, friends and constituents. For this I am very apologetic.”

Burns is unopposed for re-election this November for what would be his fourth term in office. He would be term-limited after that.

With Burns’ district mostly Democratic, he has faced little opposition for re-election in his years in office. He is a longtime member of the Teamsters union and worked as a delivery driver for many years.

On the audio circulated on YouTube, Burns told Romanik, “I appreciate the fact that you stand up and tell it like it is.”

Besides the racial slurs, Romanik said on the audio juxtaposed with Burns’ call, “It’s going to be a movement for the white people.”

But in an interview with a Metro East newspaper, Romanik said last week that Burns only called in to his show to discuss military and police issues, not race.

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed apologized in 2016 for laughing at one of Romanik’s insults on the radio show.

Reed is still in office. But at a time when many Democrats — but not Burns — were pushing for the resignation of Gov. Eric Greitens, Democrats statewide were quick to try to distance themselves from Burns by asking him to step aside.

The most prominent voice to call for Burns’ resignation was McCaskill, who faces a tough re-election fight that has gained national attention as one of the most competitive races in the country this year.

Burns worked for her as a field representative from 2007 to 2010, when she suspended him after he made a comment on video comparing conservative activists to the “brownshirts” of the Nazi Party.

McCaskill issued a statement April 21: “It’s come to my attention that in multiple call-in interviews with KQQZ-AM Radio, Rep. Burns expressed public support for — and agreement with — an individual who has delivered a constant toxic stream of racist, sexist attacks on his radio show.

Her statement continued: “Rhetoric like this is not only offensive — it stokes fear and division, and gives license to those who would perpetuate further toxic rhetoric and behavior. Rep. Burns’ public statements of support for this individual do not reflect the values of the state of Missouri. And his failure to challenge such hateful rhetoric is a disservice to the Missourians he represents. I urge him to resign his seat in the Missouri General Assembly immediately.“

Just weeks after co-hosting a town hall at South County Tech with Burns, Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, asked for him to resign his seat.

“Bob Burns has been a friend to me,” Unsicker posted on Twitter. “However, because he did not distance himself from Bob Romanik, I will distance myself from him over his support of a man who so openly voices a racist, misogynistic viewpoint. It is with a heavy heart that I ask Bob Burns to resign.”

House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty of the Kansas City area also asked Burns to resign, followed by the Missouri Democratic Party.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who has faced calls for her own resignation in the past for her comments on President Donald Trump, tweeted that Burns should resign.

“It breaks my heart to post this, but now is not the time for complacency,” Chappelle-Nadal posted to Twitter. “We need Missouri Democrats to stand up for #BlackLivesMatter & reparations. The use or acceptance of the use of the N-word is outright unacceptable.”

“There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal,” Rep. Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis, tweeted.