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While partisan politics occasionally inspires some raw remarks from elected officials, such as the Cheney-Leahy contretemps last month, the venom stays between the principals and usually avoids outsiders. Former Los Angeles mayor and current California Education Secretary Richard Riordan scored some collateral damage last week, insulting a schoolgirl over her name and giving Governor Schwarzenegger a headache he didn't need:
The conversation, videotaped by KEYT-TV, took place Thursday at a promotional event for summer reading at Santa Barbara's central library. The unidentified girl, who appeared to be a preschooler, asked Riordan if he knew that her name meant "Egyptian goddess."
Riordan replied, "It means stupid dirty girl."
After nervous laughter in the room, the girl again told Riordan the meaning of her name.
"Hey, that's nifty," he said.
Not as nifty as sticking his foot squarely in his mouth on television, and not surprisingly, Riordan and Schwarzenegger are taking some heat for his stupidity. Politicians around the state have called for Riordan's resignation, even after Riordan publicly apologized. The Sacramento Bee called for his removal, saying that Riordan's comment shows that California "shouldn't have an education secretary who makes offensive, damaging remarks to young children for no apparent reason."
Even more interestingly, the NAACP added its voice to the fray, demanding Riordan's removal. The NAACP had decided to lead a coalition of civil-rights groups in a demonstration at the capitol, and Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally had organized the event. Yesterday, his office issued a scathing broadside at Riordan:
His office issued a statement Wednesday calling Riordan's remarks to the girl "outrageous and irresponsible," ... Dymally was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News Thursday saying the child was "a little African-American girl. Would he (Riordan) have done that to a white girl?"
Well, in fact, he did. Isis, contrary to the conclusions to which the eternally clueless Dymally jumped, is a blond-haired, white girl with a cool Egyptian first name. Dymally and the NAACP is so desperate for a public issue that they immediately assumed Riordan is a racist instead of just a fool, and were all ready to accuse him of everything short of being the Grand Kleagle of Sacramento.
Ironically, Isis' race made no difference to Riordan, but it made all the difference in the world to Dymally and the NAACP:
[T]he organizer, Democratic state Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, canceled the protest after an apparent mix-up over the girl's racial background. ... [Dymally] then issued another statement Thursday saying, "To err is human; to forgive is divine."
"Race is not a factor in this issue," Dymally said, adding that Riordan had apologized a second time. "It is time for us to move on."
So Dymally has no problem leaving Riordan in office as long as he's only insulting white kids? Who's the racist here, anyway?Sphere It View blog reactions
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