Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson had some explaining to do this weekend after some dirt digging gay activists resurrected a less-than-gay-friendly moment from last year.
New Mexico Governor Richardson appeared on the since-canceled Don Imus radio program last March. Imus, who lost his job earlier this year for referring to the Rutgers women’s b-ball team as “nappy-headed hos”, apparently baited Richardson into using the word, maricÃ³n – Spanish for “faggot”.
From Gay News Watch:
…[Imus] used the Spanish word “maricÃ³n” in an on-air exchange with Richardson.
“Bernard on the staff here has been claiming you’re not really Hispanic so– that you’re just claiming that for some sort of advantage or something,” Imus said to Richardson, tongue clearly in cheek. “You can just answer this yes or no and this will answer that question. Would you agree that Bernard is a maricÃ³n?”
Without missing a beat, Richardson replied in Spanish, “Yo creo que Bernardo, sÃ – es un maricÃ³n si Ã©l piensa que yo no soy hispano. [General laughter] Was that good enough or what? [General laughter]”
Translated to English, Richardson said, “I believe that Bernard, yes – he’s a faggot if he thinks that I am not Hispanic.”
Gay activist Christopher Hubble heard the slip-up and notified GLAAD’s Southwest division. They, in turn, discussed the issue with Equality New Mexico. Executive director Alexis Blizman says Richardson called her to apologize for the insensitive slur.
The governor actually called me personally to apologize and give his explanation. He was very clear about [saying], ‘I did not mean to use that term or to hurt people.’
According to Blizman, Richardson said he used maricon as “effeminate”. Regardless of definition, he walked away from the situation knowing not to use the word again. Neither Equality New Mexico nor GLAAD pursued the matter, allegedly to protect Richardson’s domestic partnership bill.
While one would think this past slip-up should remain in the past, Hubble revived it after Chris Crain, the former Washington Blade editor who now edits Gay News Watch, used his blog to celebrate Richardson’s gay rights record. In the resulting write-up, which Crain wrote with IN Los Angeles news editor Karen Ocamb, GNW nit-picks:
…Richardson never made public his personal apology to Blizman.
The governor had an opportunity to do so, almost exactly one year after the Imus appearance, when he was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s black-tie dinner in Los Angeles on March 27. He used the occasion to blast conservative columnist Ann Coulter, who was embroiled in a controversy of her own for jokingly calling presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot.”
“This country is tired of the politics of hatred and division,” Richardson said then. “What we need in this country is someone who can bring us together. And we are fed up, we are fed up with Karl Rove’s machinations, and Ann Coulter’s ignorant epithets. Actually, we’re fed up with Ann Coulter, period!”
This comparison between Coulter and Richardson seems a bit slanted. And when we say slanted, we mean totally incomparable. Coulter’s statement clearly had political intentions. Richardson’s statement, though distasteful, sprang from archaic humor – not malicious intent.
Regardless, Richardson recently released a statement apologizing for the forgettable blunder:
I would never knowingly say or do anything to hurt the GLBT community – a community that I have worked hard for and supported my entire career.
In the Spanish I grew up speaking, the term means simply ‘gay,’ not positive or negative. It has been brought to my attention that the word also has a hurtful or derogatory connotation, which was never my intent. If I offended anybody, I’m sorry.
My record on GLBT issues speaks for itself. I have certainly done more to help and support the GLBT community than any other presidential candidate, and more than most other politicians. The timing of this smacks of politics – it comes as I am gaining momentum and moving up in the polls.
West Hollywood politico Jeff Prang agrees:
[He] has apologized, and I accept his explanation. Clearly, his consistent and strong actions in support for the LGBT community demonstrate that he is the best candidate for the LGBT community in the Democratic primary.
We can’t say whether or not Richardson’s the best candidate for the queers, but it seems to us that reviving this issue does nothing but shed light on one incident, rather than focusing on the larger story. It would be like admonishing a special ed teacher for using the word “retarded” back in second-grade. It is, quite simply, idiotic.