Sunday, January 12, 2003

Senate president admits anti-Semitic remark

White says he apologized

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio Senate President Doug White admitted making an anti-Semitic remark at a Cleveland event recently but said he apologized to state Jewish leaders after he realized that some in the audience found it offensive.

"The comment was a very offhand one that I had no knowledge of its sensitivity. It's one I've used very seldom in my life," said Mr. White, a Republican from Manchester.

At a Cleveland fund-raiser before the Nov. 5 election, Mr. White used the expression "we need to Jew them down," which many Jewish people find objectionable and based on an offensive stereotype.

Mr. White was sworn in last week as senate president, replacing the retiring Richard Finan, R-Evendale.

He said it came in the context of a joke about a rodeo. Then, as if to say that he was a product of his rural upbringing, he said, "I grew up in Adams County." He referred further questions to Jewish leaders.

Joyce Garver Keller, director of the Ohio Jewish Communities in Columbus, said many people at the fund-raiser audience were surprised to hear the remark, but would not judge the senator based solely on one statement.

"There were some people who were taken aback, I think, more than anything, and there was some good dialogue in the community about that expression, and what it means," she said.

"I told the senator he had to work on the Adams County expressions he grew up with, and he understood that," Ms. Keller said.

Dick Weiland, a Cincinnati lobbyist whose clients include Jewish organizations, said Mr. White is "as good a friend as the Jewish community can have."

"There is not a bone of anti-Semitism in him," he said.

Representatives of the Cleveland region of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Jewish discrimination, could not be reached Saturday because it was the Sabbath.


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