MIAMI -- U.S. District Judge Alcee Hastings told a group of attorneys and judges President Reagan is 'a deceitful liar' and 'a racist in more senses than we can imagine.'
Hastings, 46, Florida's first black federal judge, was tried and acquitted earlier this year on a bribery-conspiracy charge.
He made his remarks Wednesday night at a dinner given by Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., and twice received standing ovations from the crowd of about 100 attorneys, judges and government leaders. He said he knew his remarks would offend some people.
Hastings said he was angered by criticism directed at Miami City Manager Howard Gary, who, on the eve of the president's May 20 visit to Miami's Little Havana for Cuban Independence Day, called Reagan 'a racist who terrorizes blacks.'
Gary came under fire by Hispanics who demanded his resignation and later apologized for his remarks.
Hastings defended Gary and said he was angered when he saw Gary 'pounced on and jumped on' by members of the Latin community and the media.
'I am not anti-Cuban,' Hastings said. 'Nor did the city manager mean anything offensive in regard to any Cuban citizen. I believe the Cuban community had a right to be proud of Reagan coming here.
'But it's just a matter of time before you realize deceit for what it is -- deceit. Reagan was a racist on the eve that he came here and he was a racist on the eve that he left.'
Hastings said Reagan is 'a racist in more senses than we can imagine. Racism connotes power. Most people don't begin to understand or do not ponder what the meaning of power really is.'
Hastings, appointed to the bench in 1979 by President Carter, was the first federal judge in U.S. history to face criminal charges for his conduct on the bench.
He was accused of conspiring with a friend, Washington attorney William A. Borders Jr., to accept a $150,000 bribe from two convicted racketeers. Borders was convicted in a separate trial.
Hastings, who stopped hearing cases while under investigation, returned to the bench after his acquittal. A panel of federal judges is conducting an inquiry into complaints Hastings displayed improper judicial conduct.