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Ministerial Alliance Stands By Senate Candidate John Hickenlooper After Controversial Comments

DENVER (CBS4) - The Democratic Senate Primary has taken a stunning turn over the last few weeks. Candidate and former Gov. John Hickenlooper is dealing with one controversy to another.

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John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

First, he was found to have violated state ethics laws and was held in contempt for defying a subpoena to testify at the ethics hearing. Now, he's accused of racial insensitivity.

The accusation stems, in part, from Hickenlooper's answer to a question at a forum about what Black Lives Matter means to him. He answered, "Black Life Matters means every life matters."

The answer left black leaders like Brother Jeff Fard baffled. He says, as governor, Hickenlooper worked with Black Lives Matter organizers.

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Brother Jeff Fard (credit: CBS)

"And then to have a total lack of understanding about what that even means makes me wonder, were you really in the room?" Brother Jeff said.

Next, a supporter of Hickenlooper's opponent, former Speaker of the State House Andrew Romanoff, released a video from six years ago of Hickenlooper talking about his schedulers as slave drivers.

"Imagine an ancient slave ship, with a guy with a whip, and you're rowing" Hickenlooper said in the video.

Hickenlooper immediately apologized. Brother Jeff was baffled again. The slavery reference, he says, was clearly about ancient Romans.

"This is political correctness at its worst. This is a teachable moment. Slavery is not just the purview of black people," said Brother Jeff.

Rev. Jerry Demmer, head of the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance, which endorsed Hickenlooper, says he was initially concerned.

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Reverend Jerry Demmer (credit: CBS)

"Hickenlooper messed up. He admitted that to me," Demmer said.

The Ministerial Alliance considered pulling its endorsement but Demmer says the African American ministers decided to stand by Hickenlooper because he'd stood by them.

"Testimony after testimony, that when I needed somebody to be there, John Hickenlooper was there. He believes black lives matter, he's just sometimes not articulate," said Demmer. "I think that our message to the governor is we're with you but you've got to stop fumbling because if you fumble too much it will cause us to lose the game."

Brother Jeff hasn't decided who he's voting for but Hickenlooper isn't exactly endearing himself to African American voters like him.

"I guarantee you voters are looking at what these candidates are doing and what they saying and when there are close races, the way you handle  certain comments or things that you have said are going to be the difference between winning and losing," said Brother Jeff.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer pushed Hickenlooper to run for Senate because he thought he could win the general election against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, but some are now starting to wonder if he will win the primary against Andrew Romanoff.

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