The CEO and founder of an organic fertilizer company says his life has been ruined after he was fired when he was caught on camera using a racial slur against an African-American Uber driver.
AgroPlasma Inc. founder Hans Berglund was caught on video cursing at 25-year-old Uber driver Randy Clarke in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.
Clarke, who is also a student at Arizona State University, asked Berglund to sit in the back seat and offered to refund him if he didn’t want to sit there, he said.
But a camera installed above the dashboard suddenly captured Berglund’s racist outburst which ended up with him using the n-word against the driver.
‘It’s so blown out of proportion, and it’s ruined my life. It’s ruined my company. It ruins everything about my situation right now,’ Berglund said on Thursday.
Berglund, a Swedish immigrant from Scottsdale, said: ‘I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr Clarke. I firmly believe that there is no excuse for the use of racial slurs under any circumstance, so I will not offer any.
‘It is my sincere hope that Mr Clarke hears and accepts my apology and believes me when I say it is honest and heartfelt,’ Berglund added.
Clarke branded the online statement insincere and says he wants to meet him in person. He said he met with his lawyer on Thursday to discuss the incident.
Clarke said: ‘I do not accept Mr Berglund’s digital apology. It is wrapped in insincerity and so is AgroPlasma’s statement on his alleged firing.
‘Suspension and firing are two different things. I also am consulting with my lawyer, David Dow, to determine my rights and next steps. We want justice and we want reconciliation. That begins with transparency and Mr Berglund and his company sitting down to meet us.’
Clarke told the Washington Post he would like a sit-down meeting with the man to ensure Berglund walks away with a deeper understanding of the racial slur.
‘I don’t want a lawyer apology,’ Clarke said. ‘I want a genuine, heartfelt apology so I can actually forgive him and give him a big hug.’
Clarke says that he has lost sleep and been physically sick after seeing online reactions to the incident. He now says that he can’t even walk outside without being recognized.
He posted his anguish to Twitter on Thursday: ‘I am the Uber Driver from Phoenix who had the verbal altercation with Hans Berglund, formerly of Agroplasma. I’m coming out on social media to thank the general public their support.
‘I also ask that general public stop posting the man’s address on social media, that’s not cool. This man has a family and as a man with a child myself I wouldn’t want to feel that my family’s life is threatened.
‘I haven’t slept in days, I barely ate and I haven’t driven as much as I wanted to since the Incident. School has been difficult as well as my social life.’
‘I wasn’t pleased with how he played the victim,’ Clarke said. ‘I do pray for him and his family, but you just don’t go on TV and put up a pity party when you did something wrong.’
During the video which was captured on Clarkes in-car camera, Berglund can be seen cursing at Clarke.
Clarke said he assumed Berglund read the statement on his driver profile telling passengers about his policy that states the ‘front seat is reserved to parties of three or more.’
Clarke started the policy after he was assaulted during a ride in 2018, he told KNXV-TV.
‘Mind sitting in the back,’ Clarke is heard asking Berglund, who then replies: ‘No, I don’t like to sit there.’
‘I don’t like it when people sit in the front,’ said Clarke, who doesn’t allow passengers to sit in the front.
At this point, Berglund, 72, gets angry and asks: ‘Are you f**king serious with me?’
Clarke is heard telling the man that he doesn’t mind cancelling and refunding him.
The pair eventually agreed to a refund, but Berglund hops in the back seat anyway.
‘I’m here, sitting in the back,’ Berglund says.
‘Sir, please leave my vehicle,’ Clarke responded. ‘Is it because I’m white? And you’re a f**kin’ n***er? You are a f**king idiot,’ Berglund shouts.
Clarke even told Berglund that he had two dash cams in his vehicle and that their interaction was being recorded.
Agroplasma said that Jeffrey Ziehmer, its former general manager, would replace Berglund as interim CEO ‘until further notice’.
A statement from Agroplasma said the incident does not reflect its values and ethics. ‘Our relationships with our employees, customers and the community are the cornerstones of our success, and we are doing everything in our power to rebuild their trust and repair the harm that has resulted from this incident.’
Clarke said the incident left him in ‘shock’ and he immediately filed a complaint with Uber,
Clarke and civil-rights activist the Rev. Jarrett Maupin held a news conference outside Tempe City Hall, near one of ASU’s Phoenix-area campuses, on Wednesday to ‘demand justice.’
‘It’s shocking when you see anyone use that word or engage in that kind of racism in any circumstance,’ Maupin said. ‘There’s really no excuse for why Hans Berglund engaged in the activity and used the language that he did with Mr. Clark.’
Clarke, Maupin and their lawyer are now asking the state attorney general’s office and city of Tempe, where the company is located, to investigate possible civil and human rights violations.
Grant Klinzman, a spokesman for Uber, said in a statement Thursday that ‘discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere.
‘What´s been described is a clear violation of our community guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it,’ Klinzman added.
Clarke said Uber reached out to him Monday to tell him that Berglund’s account was temporarily placed on hold during the investigation.
‘Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere. What’s been described is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it,’ Uber said in a statement to ABC.