WASHINGTON – A Maryland state delegate under fire from Democrats and Republicans over her alleged use of a racial slur was censured Thursday.
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a Harford County Democrat, apologized Tuesday after reports surfaced that she referred to a legislative district in predominantly African-American Prince Georges County as a “n—– district.” The phrase was allegedly uttered during a January meeting with a fellow lawmaker at an Annapolis bar.
The Maryland House of Delegates publicly censured her by a vote of 136-0.
“The language of racism and hate has no place in our public discourse. Any public official who engages in this reprehensible conduct should do the right thing and step down,” tweeted Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday.
“We all agree that we are calling for her resignation,” said Del. Darryl Barnes, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, after a closed-door caucus meeting, The Baltimore Sun reported. “There is no place here in the House of Delegates for that kind of language to be used. It is unacceptable. It is offensive and it is very hurtful.”
“We know she is one of our colleagues, we know she is a Democrat, but party has nothing to do with the hatred and bigotry that comes out of someone’s mouth,” Barnes told The Washington Post.
“I deeply apologize to the citizens of my district, people of Maryland, all of my colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly and everyone reading this for my word choice several weeks ago,” Lisanti said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth. It does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what is in my heart.”
On Tuesday, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch stripped Lisanti, 51, of her two committee assignments. Busch told the Sun Lisanti agreed to undergo sensitivity training.
Lisanti also apologized at the closed-door Black Caucus meeting on Monday. Barnes said that while she seemed genuinely sorry, she also claimed that she did not recall using the racial term, he told the Post.
In a statement on Monday, Barnes called Lisanti’s apology “woefully inadequate.”
Lisanti also told the Post that she did not remember using the offensive word.
“I don’t recall much of that evening,” she told the Post in an interview.
When asked if she ever recalled using the term, Lisanti told the Post, “I’m sure I have.”
“I’m sure everyone has used it,” she said. “I’ve used the f-word. I used the Lord’s name in vain.”
She did not return messages from USA TODAY.
“An apology and promise to undergo diversity training are not enough,” Maryland Democratic Party chairwoman Maya Rockeymoore Cummings said in a statement Wednesday. “African Americans comprise approximately a third of the voters in Lisanti’s district and they deserve to be represented by a person who is considerate of their views, a champion for their issues, respectful and appreciative of diverse people, and dedicated to cultivating an inclusive economy and democracy.”
“For too long, racial slurs have been used to oppress people of color,” tweeted Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. “Public servants that use this type of bigoted language should be held accountable. Words have consequences. Delegate Lisanti must do the right thing and resign.”
Prince Georges County, which is located just outside Washington, D.C., is almost 67 percent African-American, according to the U.S. Census. It was one of the most affluent predominantly African-American counties in the nation, according to the Post.
Harford County, which Lisanti represents, is 78 percent white, according to the Census. She is the lone Democratic delegate from the county, which voted 58 percent for President Donald Trump in a state the president lost by almost 30 points.
Lisanti’s alleged racist comment drew comparisons to the revelations that neighboring Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring had appeared in blackface in the past. Northam and Herring have stayed in office despite calls for them to resign.
Contributing: Associated Press