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ATLANTA -- Former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador leader Andrew Young, who began serving as chairman of lobbyist group Working Families for Wal-Mart in February, said on Friday he was stepping down from the position after being criticized for remarks that some perceived to be racially offensive.
"I think I was on the verge of becoming part of the controversy, and I didn't want to become a distraction from the main issues, so I thought I ought to step down," Young told The Associated Press.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel that sparked the controversy, Young was asked about whether he was concerned Wal-Mart causes smaller, mom-and-pop stores to close.
"Well, I think they should; they ran the `mom and pop' stores out of my neighborhood," the paper quoted Young as saying. "But you see, those are the people who have been overcharging us, selling us stale bread and bad meat and wilted vegetables. And they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they've ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores."
Young, who has since apologized for the remarks, said the article was misread and misinterpreted. He said he decided to end his involvement with Working Families for Wal-Mart after he started getting calls about the story.
Reading from a statement, Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said Friday that the company supported Young's decision to resign, and that Young's comments do not reflect Wal-Mart's views.
"We are appalled by those comments," Simley said. "We are also dismayed that they would come from someone who has worked so hard for so many years for equal rights in this country."
On its Web site, Working Families for Wal-Mart says it's "a group of leaders from a variety of backgrounds and communities all across America ... committed to fostering open and honest dialogue with elected officials, opinion makers, and community leaders that conveys the positive contributions of Wal-Mart to working families."