The President of the Valley Swim Club finally talked Friday, with his wife at his side, apologizing and explaining that the private club's best intentions were misunderstood in about the worst way.
"We deeply regret this whole situation. We are personally saddened by these allegations that are not true. We never meant to offend anyone here," said club president John Duesler.
Duesler said day campers who were invited to the club couldn't come back for safety reasons and "it's very sad" that 65 elementary aged children may now think racism is the reason they can no longer swim at the private pool.
"We invited these clubs into our pool, we knew the kids were coming in from the city...due to a lack of pool availability this summer. We reached out to them, we invited them to our pool. And once the kids came, we've never done this before, and it's very unfortunate, there were just too many children for us to handle. This was a safety situation. Many of these children were not able to swim, most of them were not able to come and we were just overwhelmed with the sheer number of children that came to our club," Duesler explained.
The Creative Steps Day camp paid the club $1950 so Philadelphia kids could swim at the Montgomery County outdoor pool once a week. During their first trip to the pool, several campers said club members pulled their kids out of the water and some made racial remarks. Before their next outing, Duesler told the camp director swim privileges were being suspended and their money returned. His first explanation came in a statement Tuesday night when he said, "There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion…and the atmosphere of the club." That fueled what quickly became a national story and debate – was racism really that overt in the Philly suburbs?
"That was a terrible choice of words," blown out of proportion, he said Friday.
Wife Bernice said they're not used to being in front of cameras or talking to reporters and her husband doesn't deserve what he's enduring for the wrong choice of words.
"Our home's been inundated with thousands of hateful emails, hundreds of horrible phone calls," said Bernice. "And we were just so thrilled to have the kids come here that it broke our heart that they couldn't come here."
Duesler said the club had to rescind offers with two other organizations he invited in for the summer, but didn't want to give out names because enough damage had been done.
"My husband, he's not one of the good guys, he's one of the great guys," Bernice said. "This does not represent what we stand for or how we raise our children."