Racially Charged Slurs Levied in Sag Harbor Hills

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The View's Sunny Hostin. Photo courtesy of ABC/Heidi Gutman

In darkness less than 50 yards away, a young man in a group of 20 or more college-age young people carousing on the beach in Sag Harbor Hills at about 10:15 p.m. on the night of July 4 yelled the racial epithet “N____r” at a group of black people as they were having a barbecue and playing Charades on the deck of a waterfront house on Ninevah Place.

Sunny Hostin, a legal correspondent for ABC and a host of “The View” and her guests couldn’t believe what they’d heard. She has been renting in the historically African-American community for 12 years and had always felt safe and secure there, she said.

“Everyone was so stunned. Everyone just jumped up. I thought I must have mis-heard,” said Ms. Hostin in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I know everyone on that beach but these voices were not familiar.”

One of her astonished guests called out, “Really?”

“Then they yelled it again,” Ms. Hostin said. “We were so stunned.”

“What?” one of her guests called.

“This is America!” came the reply, Ms. Hostin said. “We are patriots!”

“Yes, this is America,” answered one of her guests, after which the people on the beach began shooting off fireworks, Ms. Hostin said.

Ms. Hostin called the police. Officers “in one or two cars” arrived in minutes with emergency lights flashing, she said, but the crowd had scattered and police found no one on the beach.

But meanwhile Ms. Hostin, a former federal prosecutor specializing in child sex crimes and previously a trial attorney for the Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division, had gone to the edge of the back lawn and intercepted a group with her cellphone. She said she felt she “had to document this” and recorded a video of them passing by as she asked them about the incident. When she discussed it on “The View” on Monday, she aired the brief video.

“Were you the ones yelling the N-word?” she can be heard asking as people file by.

“Oh no, there was someone else,” a young woman replies from off camera.

“Do you know who they were?”

A young man replies from off-camera, “There were about 30 people here a half an hour ago but they left.”

One of Ms. Hostin’s friends is heard to ask, “And they are your friends?”

He denied they were his friends.

About 30 minutes after police had left, shortly after midnight, Ms. Hostin said, the beachgoers “came back … They called us ‘pussies’ for calling the police,” she said. One of her guests called police back to the house. This time, Ms. Hostin said, the found “a couple of guys” on the beach and interviewed them. The officers also found car keys on the beach and took them to headquarters.

The next morning, a young woman came with her mother to the house looking for her keys and denied knowing anything about the incident.

Ms. Hostin said the Sag Harbor Police Department had taken the incident seriously and that Chief Austin J. McGuire had just called her personally to discuss it. “He assured me they were investigating,” she said.

Chief McGuire confirmed on Tuesday that he had spoken with Ms. Hostin and that the case was under investigation. He said the epithet had been “completely unprovoked,” which surprised him. “I thought there had been an argument about something but, no, Sunny said it was unprovoked.”

He declined to comment further except to say that whether or not a crime had been committed “depends on the manner” in which the N-word was used. “Just to use the word is not a crime,” he said.

He said he had been chief here for two and a half years and had been doing police work for 22 and never experienced “anything like this” outside of altercations during which epithets are uttered.

In Sag Harbor, he said, “You don’t expect that to happen because it’s us.”

Ms. Hostin said in an interview with Inside Edition on Monday, “In 12 years or more” of visiting Sag Harbor Hills every summer, “nothing like that has ever happened. That beach has always been our safe haven.”

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Peter Boody is news editor of The Sag Harbor Express. Previously he was the editor of the Southampton Press for many years and also edited several other papers, including the Shelter Island Reporter and the East Hampton Press, of which he was founding editor. He was a regular correspondent for the New York Times Long Island section and wrote the novel “Thomas Jefferson, Rachel & Me.”