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University of Utah nurse sorry for racist comment

By Paul Nelson and Alex Cabrero | Posted - Apr. 22, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.

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UPDATE:Comments made by a University Hospital nurse cost him his job.

Many people say Todd Shrum made racist and potentially violent comments about Tongans while posting something online about the shooting of Siale Angilau.

Shrum resigned Wednesday. But even if he hadn't, University of Utah Health Care spokesman Chris Nelson said he most likely would have been fired after their investigation.

"I can't imagine a scenario where it wasn't headed that way," Nelson said.

While the company respects its employees right to free speech, Nelson said Shrum's comment of "Tongan Trash ... kill them all" crossed a violent line. That, he said, erodes the public's trust in the company and limits how well its employees can treat their patients.

Nelson also said the company wasn't aware of any cases where Shrum treated someone improperly because of his or her nationality.

"If anyone has any evidence of anyone ever being discriminated against at University of Utah Health Care, we want them to call us," Nelson said.


SALT LAKE CITY — All it took was five words.

Five words that Todd Shrum knows he can’t take back.

"I should have kept my thoughts to myself," said Shrum.

Shrum was at his Salt Lake City home Tuesday evening for this interview.

He was home because of those five words. He was suspended from his job.

"I sincerely apologize. I meant no ill-will whatsoever," said Shrum, “just like my mom said, you can't un-ring a bell."

Shrum posted those five words on a news website comment board after reading a story about a Tongan gang member shot and killed in a federal courtroom Monday morning.

The gang member was running toward the witness stand to attack a witness when a federal marshal fired the shots to stop him.

On the comment board, Shrum wrote “Tongan Trash …. Kill Them All.”

He says that comment was for gang members.

"In no way, shape or form did I mean about the entire race. I didn't,” said Shrum, “I have friends from Tonga. My old roommate is half Samoan, half Tongan. They are great people, wonderful family people. I love them. I work with them. They’re just great people.”

University of Utah Health Care Statement

April 21, 2014 — University of Utah Health Care is aware of a disturbing and offensive comment allegedly posted online by one of our employees. The employee in question has been placed on paid administrative leave as the University investigates the situation.

University of Utah Health Care is committed to providing high quality care to everyone and we value the trust our patients place in us. The alleged comment represents unacceptable behavior that undermines that trust.

Anyone who is aware of any type of discrimination against a patient at University of Utah Health Care is encouraged to contact the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at 801- 581-8365 or toll free at toll-free 800-735-2258.

-Chris Nelson, spokesperson for University of Utah Health Care

However, people who read his comment started writing back, saying how hurtful and racist his comment was.

Shrum made the comment using his Facebook profile.

So, when people started looking at his profile, they found out Shrum is a nurse for University of Utah Health Care at University Hospital in the heart catheterization lab.

Many people started emailing and calling the hospital about Shrum’s comments.

“This is really a disappointing day at University of Utah Health Care,” said hospital spokesman Chris Nelson, “when we have an employee who posts something like this, it's really disappointing."

Hospital administrators decided to suspend Shrum, with pay, while they investigate his comment and background.

Nelson says Shrum’s comment does not represent the hospital or its staff.

“This is one person who said something highly inappropriate and offensive,” said Nelson, “we’re looking to move quickly and make sure the patients who trust us can continue to trust us.”

Shrum says he is worried about losing his job for his comment.

“I’m incredibly scared,” said Shrum, “my heart is going about 90 miles an hour right now. It’s my fault, though. My incredibly poor choice of words has caused this to happen.”

Shrum is just hoping people can forgive him.

"I really didn't mean it that way. Emphatically, I did not mean it that way. Far from it. This comment was for gang members. White gang members, black gang members, Latino gang members, they all do not have a place in our society. They need to be in jail,” said Shrum, “I'm really, really sorry, and I regret ever doing it."

Administrators at University Hospital expect to make a decision on Shrum's employment in the next couple of days.

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