A white lawmaker in Maryland has apologized for using a racial slur to describe a majority-Black county in suburban Washington, D.C., but her apology rang hollow for many.
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford) is facing intense scrutiny after allegedly using the n-word during a discussion with a white colleague at an Annapolis cigar bar late last month, during which she argued that campaigning in Prince George’s County on behalf of another candidate was the equivalent of door-knocking in a “n—-r district,” The Washington Post reported.
Prince George’s County, whose population is over 60 percent African-American, is one of the most affluent majority-Black counties in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Meanwhile, Lisanti’s district is about 80 percent white.
On Monday, she apologized to leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland after multiple executive committee members confronted her over the accusations and expressed outrage over her alleged use of the slur. The second-term lawmaker appeared “contrite” and apologized several times during the meeting, according to Black Caucus Chairman Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s).
However, two lawmakers who also were also present said Lisanti told her Black colleagues she didn’t remember saying the slur.
“I understand that the use of inappropriate and insensitive language is not acceptable under any circumstance,” Lisanti said in a statement announcing she’d be stepping down as chair of the unemployment insurance subcommittee on the House Economic Matters Committee. “I’m sorry for the hurt I have caused and will do everything I can to help heal that pain and regain the trust of my colleagues and [my] constituents. I pray for forgiveness.”
“I’m sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth,” she added. “It does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what’s my heart.”
The Legislative Black Caucus was unimpressed with Lisanti’s “inadequate” plea and suggested she undergo racial sensitivity training, which she has agreed to.
“It is clear that Delegate Lisanti is unsuited to continue in a position of leadership in the Maryland General Assembly,” the Black Caucus said in a statement. “The use of a derogatory term exhibits that she doesn’t hold the requisite contrition to be entrusted in a leadership role moving forward.”
Barnes added that he was “really disturbed” by reports of what Lisanti had said.
When questioned by the Post earlier this month about whether she used the slur, Lisanti claimed she didn’t “recall much of that evening.” When asked if she had ever used the slur in the past, the lawmaker said she was “sure” that she had.
“I’m sure everyone has used it,” she told the newspaper. “I’ve used the f-word. I used the Lord’s name in vain.”
Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) condemned Lisanti in a statement Monday and said she “must face the consequences of her behavior.” Barnes agreed, saying it might be time for the lawmaker to re-evaluate her ability to lead.
“This is not a one-time incident,” he told HuffPost. “This is a behavioral pattern ― those are her words. She has to take a real close look in the mirror and do a judgment call … and decide whether she should stay in the General Assembly or if should she move on.”