Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Der Manouel defends Borba: an overreaction to one bad word

West-side grower Mark Borba was ousted from the Community Medical Centers board after referring to President Barack Obama as “Blackie” in an email exchange with Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham.

But at least one prominent local businessman says Borba got a raw deal.
Michael Der Manouel Jr., a Republican and chair of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, devoted his daily KMJ (AM 580) radio commentary to the controversy, saying the Borba has a long record of helping the poor and shouldn’t have been removed for a single slip up.

Mark Borba

“While there’s no question Mr. Borba’s choice of words are regrettable, there’s also no question that his ouster by the board was an overreaction,” Der Manouel said in the commentary.

Der Manouel also said Borba apologized for his remarks, “expressing sincere regret for using that word and other words in the email.” The remark was part of a long email debate over water for the Valley’s west side.

“I’ve known Mark Borba for years and he’s given decades of time, talent and treasure to the local health care effort, largely to provide services for indigent and predominantly Hispanic Valley residents,” Der Manouel said. “He’s no racist.”

In a follow-up interview, Der Manouel said Borba has “raised and given hundreds of thousands of dollars for (Community Regional), whose primary mission downtown is to provide indigent, unreimbursed health care.”

Michael Der Manouel Jr.

Der Manouel said in an interview that Borba “made an off-handed remark in a private email. There is no evidence that this sort of thing has ever happened before or will happen again. So what does the hospital board gain by removing him as chair? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

What it is, Der Manouel said, is political correctness run amok.

“The enforcement of politically correct speech in this country is a disease of the gutless,” he said in the KMJ commentary. “You don’t throw 30 years of service away over an incident like this because nobody goes through life without an errant word now and then.”

If Borba was African American, Der Manouel said, “I doubt if this would be a story.”

Der Manouel, who owns an insurance company, said if it was his employee who made such a remark, “it depends on the situation, but for a one time situation, I seriously doubt if I would terminate someone over a mistake that was made and genuine remorse professed.”