By BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland political leaders from both parties and civil rights groups made growing calls for the resignation of a Democratic state lawmaker on Wednesday, after she used a racial slur for African-Americans at an after-hours gathering.
The chairs of the Maryland Democratic Party and the Maryland Republican Party, as well as Gov. Larry Hogan and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland called on Del. Mary Ann Lisanti to resign, a day after she issued a public apology for making the comment last month in reference to Prince George’s County, which is majority black.
“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 of their issues, respectful and appreciative of diverse people, and dedicated to cultivating an inclusive economy and democracy,” said Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party.
Hogan, a Republican, tweeted that “the language of racism and hate has no place on our public discourse.” Dirk Haire, the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, called for her immediate resignation.
“Any public official who engages in this reprehensible conduct should do the right thing and step down,” Hogan wrote.
Lisanti, 51, apologized to lawmakers and released a statement Tuesday, saying she was “sickened” she used the word several weeks ago. She also said she agreed to participate in sensitivity training.
“I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and will do everything I can to help heal that pain and regain the trust of my colleagues and constituents,” Lisanti said.
The Legislative Black Caucus said the apology was inadequate and called for her resignation Wednesday.
“It is clear that you are unsuited to continue as a member of the Maryland General Assembly,” Del. Darryl Barnes, the caucus chairman, wrote to the delegate. “The use of a racially-charged term is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
House Speaker Michael Busch stripped Lisanti of her chairmanship of a legislative subcommittee on Tuesday as a result of the comment.
The Washington Post was first to report Monday that Lisanti allegedly used the slur last month. She told the newspaper she didn’t recall using the word on the occasion. Asked whether she had ever used the slur, the Post reported that she said: “I’m sure I have … I’m sure everyone has used it.”
Dana Shelley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Maryland, called for Lisanti’s resignation as well, saying “we should never accept blatant racism from anyone, much less our elected leaders.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, also condemned the racial slur and called on Lisanti to resign.
Other Democrats who have urged Lisanti to resign include U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, whose district includes parts of Prince George’s County.
“In 2019, we should not have to explain the seriousness of using this epithet,” Brown, the state’s former lieutenant governor, said in a statement Wednesday. “This hateful word was, and is still callously used in an effort to dehumanize black Americans.”
The outrage against the delegate’s comment is happening as state government in neighboring Virginia has been embroiled in scandal after Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, both Democrats, have acknowledged they wore blackface in the 1980s. They have resisted calls to resign.