Sheriff Gusman wonders if criticism is race-based

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman questions whether his ethnicity is a reason he's come under fire for his handling of the Orleans Parish Prison. Gusman also calls the videos taken inside the prison of inmates doing drugs and gambling embarrassing.

Sheriff Gusman has been the target of harsh criticism from New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and others after the video was shown in federal court last week, showing inmates at Orleans Parish Prison doing drugs, drinking beer and gambling.  At the time, Gusman suggested the video had been doctored and said he'd only seen a portion of the tape.

But in an interview Tuesday with the New Orleans Tribune, Gusman opened up about those shocking images, saying, "The video is embarrassing... in some ways, in many ways, disgusting."

During the interview, Gusman is asked if he thinks the attacks against him are part of a race-based effort to malign his work as sheriff. He responds, "The only way I could explain how someone would question my leadership, my ability has to be because they have a different agenda. They have to be looking at something different that just the record. Maybe they're looking at the person that's there. Maybe they're looking at the way that person looks."

This isn't the first time Gusman has brought up race. Last week, he accused Mayor Landrieu of using "Archie Bunker rhetoric" after the mayor criticized Gusman's management of the jail.

Political analyst Silas Lee says the rift between the two is a bit surprising.

"Basically they've been political allies almost up to this point and right now we see a very tense relationship based on the videos and the consent decree," Dr. Lee explained.

It's certainly not the first fight between two politicians, but Lee says this battle is getting personal.

"We've had tension between Sheriff Foti and other elected officials in the past in reference to his management and access to the budget, but it has never elevated to the point where we see now," said Lee.

Adding to the mounting tension, the city filed a request Tuesday asking for a federal receiver to come in and run the jail. The maneuver is viewed as a long shot by some, and it's an idea that isn't sitting well with Sheriff Gusman.

FOX 8 reached out to Mayor Landrieu Wednesday to see if he had any reaction to what Sheriff Gusman said.  We were told "no comment."