PHOENIX — The president of a Valley company was caught on camera calling his Uber driver, an African American Arizona State University student, a racial slur.
The driver was not only offended at being called the N-word, but also appalled when he found out the passenger was a CEO and in a position of power.
Randy Clarke takes pride in his Uber rides.
"Inside the car, I got two iPads for games and music," said Clarke, showing off the vehicle that looks like it could have been on the Xzibit TV show. "You got the drinks, the snacks, super clean."
Clarke has been driving for more than four years, "with over 14,000 rides under my belt."
The 25-year-old has a nearly perfect driver rating on the Uber app.
One ride though, in 2018, changed everything. "I was sexually assaulted before," said Clarke. "He was drunk, grabbed my crotch. I said, 'Whoa, you can't be doing that' and ended the ride."
The assault is the reason why Clarke now has signs on the inside and outside of his car that clearly state, "Front seat use is reserved for parties of three or more."
Friday night, a rider tried to hop in up front.
"Mind sitting in the back," asked Clarke.
"No, I don't like to sit there," replied the passenger.
"I don't like it when people sit in the front," said Clarke.
The two continued going back and forth.
"Are you f***ing serious with me?" asked the passenger.
"No, I don't like when people sit in the front. I'll cancel and refund you."
Both men agreed to cancel the trip, but the passenger then hopped in the back.
"I'm here, sitting in the back," said the rider.
"Sir, please leave my vehicle."
"Is it because I'm White? And you're a f****ing N******? You are a f***ing idiot."
"I was in shock. And I shamelessly felt like laughing because I did not know this was real," said Clarke. "It's not just any word."
Clarke quickly filed a complaint with Uber but had a gut feeling the passenger was a person with some power. "Something told me inside that this man is probably a business owner," he said.
Clarke did some digging and determined it was Hans Berglund, Founder, and CEO of AgroPlasma, which is an organic fertilizer company based in Tempe.
"This man probably is employing people of color," said Clarke, concerned by the blatant racism he displayed to a complete stranger in a matter of seconds.
Berglund told ABC15, "I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr. Clarke. I firmly believe that there is no excuse for the use of racial slurs under any circumstance, so I will not offer any. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Clarke hears and accepts my apology and believes me when I say it is honest and heartfelt."
Uber responded to ABC15 by saying, "Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere. What’s been described is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it.”
Clarke said that Uber reached out to him late Monday to tell him that Berglund's account has been temporarily placed on hold during the investigation.