Jimmy Haslam breaks silence to address ‘vile’ secret recordings in Pilot Flying J investigation

BEREA, Ohio- Browns owner Jimmy Haslam broke his self-imposed silence to address what a federal judge called "vile" comments made by one of Haslam's former trucking executives - comments the judge said disparaged women, "the entire city of Cleveland," and the Cleveland Browns.

"I'm actually glad you brought that up," Haslam said, after a FOX 8 reporter asked him about the judge's remarks. Haslam was holding a news conference where he announced the hiring of a new general manager for the Browns, who remain winless this season.

Haslam said it hasn't been appropriate to speak since the federal investigation of his Pilot Flying J truck stop empire began several years ago, but then added, "yesterday's remarks that came out of the courtroom I think justify comments."

In court in Tennessee, Judge Curtis Collier described remarks caught on secretly recorded tape - remarks, he said, that were attributed to Mark Hazelwood, the former president of Pilot Flying J, who is one of several individuals on trial for allegedly defrauding customers.

Judge Collier described the remarks as "vile, despicable, inflammatory, racial epithets." The judge said he is considering allowing the jury to hear them. Right now, the recording remains under seal.

"First, none of those individuals work for us anymore," Haslam said. "No one who works for our company now was at that event (where the recording was made). That's not how we act or do things. And those kind of remarks are intolerable."

Haslam's company is paying for the defense of the former executives who are now on trial in Tennessee.

When FOX 8 asked about that, Haslam said that "without getting into too much detail, it's traditional when employees of a company are sued or have a legal problem, until those employees plead guilty or are found guilty, the company pays for their legal expenses, so that will continue."

Asked by FOX 8 if he was comfortable with that arrangement at this point, Haslam simply repeated: "that will continue."

Haslam has not been charged with any crime, and has denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme.

His company has paid over $170 million in fines and settlements related to the matter.

**Continuing coverage**