Cuyahoga County health commissioner does not address blackface photo at county briefing

Health commissioner does not address blackface photo at county briefing

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cuyahoga County’s health commissioner appeared in public for the first time Friday, three days after our 19 News investigation uncovered a photo of him wearing blackface 30 years ago.

The picture was taken at a Halloween party in Dayton in 1990 and sent to 19 Investigates by a source.

But there was no mention of the incident at Friday’s press briefing.

Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan and County Executive Armond Budish held a virtual media briefing like they do every week, with the latest updates on coronavirus in the county.

“This week we continue to see widespread transmission of Covid-19 in Cuyahoga County,” Allan said during the Friday briefing.

“So I remain hopeful we can limit the scope and magnitude of this unprecedented pandemic,” he said.

Allan spoke to 19 Investigates over the phone on Tuesday, apologizing for wearing Blackface.

“I was young, I was dumb and I’m sorry that I did it,” Allan said.

“I was very young, it was a long time ago. That it was clearly wrong. That since then—what I didn’t realize when I was younger is how offensive it is, and I have certainly come to understand that now,” he said.

Allan has been leading the county through the coronavirus pandemic and has been a part of the county declaring racism a public health crisis.

The five member board stands by its health commissioner.

They sent out a statement after our story earlier this week, saying in part--

“It is our feeling that Commissioner Allan has developed a sincere appreciation and sense of regret for the realities of his decades-old actions. It is also our position that he is fully capable of continuing to lead our agency during this time of pandemic and beyond.”

Allan also sent out a letter Tuesday night, saying he has “faith that my work record speaks to my true intent.”

You can read more from both statements here.

Allan previously said this photo from his past does not reflect who he is or ever was.

Friday, he showed he's staying focused on fighting the pandemic.

He has served in public health for 30 years.

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