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Those sentiments were echoed by a former housing development specialist for the corporation, one of the few black professionals employed there. He asked not to be identified because his current employer, a financial institution, does business with the corporation.
"I had very strong feelings that African Americans were being unfairly treated in terms of position and remuneration," he said. "The entire agency was shameful in that respect."
The e-mail quotes jibed with Harding's general demeanor, he said. "[They] didn't surprise me at all. I wouldn't put it past him to say anything. He had a disdain for people generally, and knowing what I know, he would probably be more pronounced about people from another cultural background."
A longtime employee of the agency, who also would only speak on condition of anonymity, worked regularly with Harding and said that the online comments, while shocking, were just a private expression of sentiments that were long suspected among staffers.
"Of course he wouldn't say anything like that to me personally," said the staffer, an African American. "But it was clear Russell had problems with blacks and with women. He also had a class issue. His biases were obvious to people, and the plan was to keep him away from us and let Luke [Cusack] be the front person. HDC went from a place that had never had a [discrimination] lawsuit and where people enjoyed working to one where people walked on eggshells and in fear."
The quotes were unpersuasive to a couple of Voicereaders, however, who questioned why Harding's remarks in September 2000 about then Senate candidate Hillary Clinton appeared alongside disparaging comments about her husband Bill's decision to take offices in Harlem, a move that didn't take place until months later, in February 2001.
Asked about the matter, Sawyers said he knew nothing about either event when Harding raised them but that some downloaded chats may have become merged.
Related Stories by Tom Robbins:
"Low-Class Act: Russell Harding on Blacks, the Poor, and the Clintons"