ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- A Cobb County man might sue a Georgia lawmaker after she claimed he told her, “Go back to where you came from,” during a confrontation at a grocery store.
In a statement Monday, Eric Sparkes told CBS46 he’s “in the process of exploring with attorneys a defamation lawsuit against her.”
The argument happened Saturday at a Publix in Mableton. Sparkes claims he simply pointed out to a shopper, whom he says he didn’t recognize as a state lawmaker, that she had too many items in the lane designated for shoppers with 10 items or fewer.
State Rep. Erica Thomas acknowledges she had too many items, but she said she explained to the man that she’s 9-months pregnant and has trouble standing for long periods of time. Both Thomas and Sparkes admit they exchanged words and both left the store.
When Thomas came home, she posted an emotional video on her Facebook page, saying a white man berated her using racist language.
“He says, ‘You lazy son of a bitch. You need to go back where you came from,’” Thomas said tearfully in the video.
The video quickly gained traction on social media because of President Donald Trump’s controversial tweet earlier this month in which he suggested that four nonwhite Congresswomen “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
The next day, as Thomas met with reporters outside the Publix, she was surprised to see Sparkes approach reporters to tell his side of the story. That’s when the two exchanged words once more.
“Do you not feel bad? Do you feel bad at all?” asked Thomas.
“Do you understand you’re a liar?” Sparkes shot back.
“I’m a liar about what?” asked Thomas.
“Everything that happened,” Sparkes answered.
He then acknowledge that he used profanity, but he said it was because she came toward him aggressively after he pointed out that she had too many items in the express checkout lane.
“I called you a lazy b-i-t-c-h,” Sparkes said. That’s the worst thing I said.”
Sparkes then addressed reporters.
“Her video stating that I told her she needs to go back where she came from (is) untrue. I am Cuban. I’m not white. I am white, but I’m Cuban,” he clarified. “I was raised with a Cuban grandmother that didn’t speak any English.”
Sparkes continued, “This woman, Ms. Thomas, is playing the victim for political purposes because she’s a state legislator. I’m a Democrat, number one. I vote Democrat party line, number two. Proven facts, all my facts can be proven. My Facebook, all my statements are anti-Trump, anti-Republican, anti-racism, anti-bigotry.”
A few minutes later, when Sparkes was no longer around, a reporter asked Thomas specifically what Sparkes said in his “go back” remark in the store.
“‘He said, ‘Go back,’ those types of words. I don’t want to say he said, “Go back to your country,’ or ‘Go back to where you came from,’ but he was making those types of references, is what I remember.’”
At a news conference Monday, flanked by her attorney Gerald Griggs and a handful of Democratic state lawmakers, Thomas stood by what she said in her original Facebook video.
“That’s when he said and made a reference to, ‘Go back where you came from.’”
After her remarks, Thomas declined to answer questions from reporters, instead walking out of the room as her supporters followed behind her.
After Thomas’s news conference, Sparkes sent CBS46 the following statement:
Ms. Thomas has taken an innocuous situation that began on my part to be about being inconsiderate and turned into a national case about race over night. Ms. Thomas accuses me of telling her to go back to wherever. Those words were never spoken. She backtracked slightly and now is changing her story. I am in the process of exploring with attorneys a defamation lawsuit against her.
The Cobb County Republican Party also speaking out, calling on Rep. Thomas to resign if "it turns out to be true she defamed a private citizen and Democratic constituent for political purposes."