Phoenix NAACP Boss Don Harris Likes "Tits," Not N-Word

Don Harris, chief of the Maricopa County NAACP, exclaims, "Nice tits!" about a female TV reporter after attending a meeting about eradicating the n-word.
Don Harris, chief of the Maricopa County NAACP, exclaims, "Nice tits!" about a female TV reporter after attending a meeting about eradicating the n-word.
Ray Stern

(UPDATE January 29: The president of the Phoenix-based chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People defends his credibility after sexist remarks.)

Don Harris, head of the Maricopa County chapter of the NAACP, is concerned about the lack of sensitivity to black people.

He was one of 40 or 50 community leaders and educators invited by the Tempe Union High School District to attend a private meeting on Tuesday about a widely shared photo of six high school girls spelling the n-word with letters on their T-shirts. The group agreed to push a movement to eradicate use of the n-word.

Then, after the meeting, Harris exclaimed about a Channel 12 News (KPNX-TV) reporter: "Nice tits!"

Respect for women apparently isn't on Harris' radar. The 77-year-old lawyer is certainly no stranger to controversy.

From his five-month appointment as Maricopa County Attorney in 1976 to his failed bid for the same post against Andrew Thomas in 2004 to his current post as a white, Jewish leader of the state's largest NAACP chapter, Harris — a former U.S. Marine officer who served in Vietnam — is known for brash, politically incorrect comments.

Still, Harris' off-handed remarks on Tuesday, following a high-powered meeting about the need to rid society of an offensive word, were a new twist. 

"How did this meeting fix anything?" asked a Channel 12 cameraman of Harris near the entrance of the TUHSD headquarters at 500 West Guadalupe. This followed several other questions by New Times and Channel 12 reporter Monique Griego, an Arizona native who worked as a reporter in out-of-state TV markets until moving back to the Phoenix area in 2014.

"It doesn't fix anything," Harris replied on camera. "We're on a pathway now to making things better."

"Thank you so much, I appreciate it," Griego told him, then immediately introduced herself to another meeting participant.

Harris turned to New Times as a reporter asked, "Can you just talk about the . . ." and made his enthusiastic comment about Griego. Then, a few seconds later, he said it again: "Nice tits."

Griego said she wasn't authorized by her station to comment about the incident.

New Times called Harris today at the NAACP office to ask a few questions about his ribald observation.

"The meeting was over," he says. "I apologize if anyone was offended. I could have said nothing . . . I'm really fucking sorry."

Harris reiterated that the meeting concerning the n-word had concluded — a meeting in which he had pledged $5,000 for the anti-N-word effort.

Asked if any kind of effort should be waged to eradicate sexist comments, as well as racist, Harris went off on a tear.

"I'm going to slash my wrists," he spews. "Better yet, I'm going to throw myself out of a fucking window, except I'm on the first floor . . . I'm one of the best goddamned people in the state."

People criticized him when he first took over the NAACP chief post from the Reverend Oscar Tillman, who retired in 2014 after 22 years in the position, he says, because "I was the wrong flavor.

"They've seen me now, they've seen what I've done. I've given up my law practice. I'm down here six, seven days a week. That's what my commitment is. I support NOW, the women's organization — goddamn! — are you shitting me? Are you going to write this up?"

After getting a response he didn't like, Harris hung up. 

No doubt he's back working to eradicate an offensive word.

Click on the player below to hear the soundbite:

The offensive photo, widely shared on social media, that sparked Tuesday's meeting of community leaders.
The offensive photo, widely shared on social media, that sparked Tuesday's meeting of community leaders.

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