PHOENIX — An Uber driver in Phoenix was not only offended when one of his passengers called him the N-word, but he was also appalled when he found out the passenger was a CEO and in a position of power.
The driver, Randy Clarke, takes pride in his Uber rides.
"Inside the car, I got two iPads for games and music," Clarke said. "You got the drinks, the snacks, super clean."
Clarke has been driving for more than four years and has completed more than 14,000 rides. The 25-year-old has a nearly perfect driver rating on the Uber app.
But one ride in 2018 changed everything.
"I was sexually assaulted," Clarke said. "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 ask passengers to sit in the back seat unless they're part of a party of three or more people.
But on Friday night, a rider tried to hop in the front seat.
Clarke asked the passenger to move and explained that he prefers passengers to sit in the back. The argument quickly escalated.
"Are you f***ing serious with me?" the passenger asked, according to the video.
Clarke offered to cancel the ride and refund the passenger, which both men agreed to. But the passenger in the front hoped in his back seat.
With the ride already canceled, Clarke asked the passenger to get out of the car.
"Is it because I'm White? And you're a f****ing n******? You are a f***ing idiot," the passenger said, according to the video.
"I was in shock. And I shamelessly felt like laughing because I did not know this was real," Clarke said. "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 — an organic fertilizer company based in Tempe.
"This man probably is employing people of color," Clarke said, concerned by the blatant racism he displayed to a complete stranger in a matter of seconds.
When contacted by reporters, Berglund apologized for his comments.
"I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr. Clarke," Berglund said in a statement. "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."
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.
"Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere," Uber said in a statement. "What's been described is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it."
This story was originally published by Zach Crenshaw on KNXV in Phoenix.