During a 2012 gathering of sales executives, then-Pilot Flying J President Mark Hazelwood was caught requesting a song called “N***** Lover” in a recording made by the FBI that has now been revealed during a court hearing.
Hazelwood and three other executives are on trial for their alleged involvement in a $92 million fraud scheme.
In the recording, former executive Arnie Ralenkotter asked Hazelwood how the sensitivity training was going after his song request. But the request for the horrific song isn’t the only incredibly racist thing some of these executives were caught saying.
Knox News reports that the recordings also show executives using other racial epithets. They were caught insulting people who live in Cleveland, Ohio, and Oakland, California. Not even the team owned by Jimmy Haslam, another co-owner and CEO of Pilot Flying J, was spared, as recordings allegedly show execs mocking the Cleveland Browns.
While Haslam is not being charged with anything, Hazelwood and other former Pilot execs are being accused of engaging in a $92 million fraud scheme by promising rebates to companies that switched to Pilot Flying J that would not materialize.
Hazelwood was finally indicted in February 2016 but had already left the company in 2014.
The tapes were used by prosecutors after Hazelwood’s attorney claimed that his client would never engage in a scheme or any other endeavor that would endanger the business.
In a statement, Pilot said that the recordings shocked them just as much as they shocked the public.
According to the company, current executives are “very disturbed and appalled by the extremely offensive and deplorable comments recorded over five years ago involving a small group of (now) former sales employees. This kind of behavior is reprehensible, not tolerated, nor reflective of the guiding principles of Pilot Flying J … No current team member of Pilot Flying J was present or participated in this incident."
This scandal could be detrimental to Democratic donor and billionaire Warren Buffet since his Berkshire Hathaway company purchased 38.6 percent of Pilot Travel Centers, which owns the Pilot Flying J chain, in October. But as far as we can tell, only former leadership was part of the group caught making racist remarks.
Regardless of when or where these conversations were recorded, it’s clear that we have a long way to go before we’re able to see America get rid of racism and bias.