Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Democrat apologizes to Chao

Party leader regrets 'chow' talk

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Democratic Party Chairwoman Nicki Patton has apologized to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell, for remarks she made during the annual Fancy Farm picnic.

        Ms. Patton, the daughter of Gov. Paul Patton, offered a list of 10 possible reasons why Mr. McConnell had missed the annual political gathering in Graves County on Saturday.

        “He passed up some good Kentucky pork to chow down at the Chinese money buffet,” Ms. Patton said.

        Mr. McConnell, a Republican who will be seeking his fourth term in 2002, has been criticized for his fund raising among Asian interests. Ms. Chao, McConnell's second wife, was born in Taiwan.

        Republican Chairwoman Ellen Williams, who followed Ms. Patton on the speaker's stand, took the word “chow” to be a play on the secretary's name and said Ms. Patton should apologize. Newspaper editorials since have also taken Ms. Patton to task.

        Ms. Patton declined to release the letter but issued a statement that said she apologized “for any misinterpretation of my remarks.”

        “I expressed to her my sincere regrets, as I intended no disrespect, malice nor harm toward her and hope the secretary will accept my heartfelt apology,” Ms. Patton said in the statement.

        Democratic spokeswoman Susan Dixen said it was a “matter between Nicki and the secretary whether the secretary chooses to accept her apology and release the letter.”

        Ms. Chao's office in the Labor Department did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.


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