CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts on Monday insisted his father is not racist, after the publication of several emails from Joe Ricketts in which he shared Islamophobic jokes, comments, and conspiracy theories.

“I was surprised to see the emails,” Ricketts said after his annual speech to players at spring training. “Our family was never raised that way. I’ve never heard my father say anything that was even remotely racist. It just isn’t our family values.”

Earlier this month, Splinter News published emails which included Joe Ricketts making racist and Islamophobic comments, such as “Islam is a cult and not a religion.”

In a 2012 email, Joe Ricketts wrote, “we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society. Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.”

Asked why his dad would write such anti-Islam comments if he is not racist, Tom Ricketts said he believed his father’s comments were “colored by the news of the day in the Middle East.”

 

“We all have to fight very hard to not let that very small percentage of people that are creating all this news, we can’t let that cast a shadow over all the people that aren’t like that,” he said. “The fact is that he acknowledged that they were inappropriate emails, and he expressed regret, and apologized.”

Tom Ricketts said his own children reached out to his father after the emails were published to show their support for him.

“I mean, the fact is that we know he’s not that guy. It’s easy to take some emails and try to paint a picture, but we know who my father is, and we know that he’s not the person that some of the articles want to make him to be,” he said.

Calling his father “a great man,” Tom Ricketts said the family patriarch has “helped children all over the world through his charities,” including in largely Islamic countries in East Africa.

“He supports 1,700 schools in Africa, all over East Africa, too, or Islamic East Africa,” the younger Ricketts said. “He’s done all the right things, I think he just probably could have been more careful about which emails he brought in, and a couple he sent.”

 

The Cubs’ owner also apologized to the team for the distraction the email scandal has caused.

“The last thing an organization needs is more off-field distractions,” he said.

In addition to the Joe Ricketts email scandal, the Cubs have had to deal with the suspension of shortstop Addison Russell for domestic abuse. Russell last week apologized to his wife and his team, and said he believes counseling is making him a better person.

“My past behaviors were wrong and unacceptable,” he said. “I just want to own that what I did was wrong, and inexcusable, and I’m sorry; sorry for the pain and hurt that I put Melisa through.”

Russell is serving a 40-game suspension that dates back to last September.