—– By: Ann Costantino —–
A growing chorus of outraged politicians, political groups and organizations are calling for Maryland State Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti to resign after she admitted to using a racial slur to describe a district in Prince George’s County early last month.
In a Tweet on Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan added to the mounting pressure, stating “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.”
The Maryland Republican Party is now also calling for Lisanti, a Democrat, to leave her position. Its chairman, Dick Haire, released a statement calling for the “immediate resignation” of the Harford County Delegate. “Her comment referring to Prince George’s County as a ‘ni**er district’ is beneath the office of Delegate, and we agree with the Legislative Black Caucus that her apology was inadequate,” Haire said.
During an outing with colleagues at an Annapolis cigar bar in early January, Lisanti made the statement in which she characterized the residents of a Prince George’s County district using the N-word. Lisanti said it in response to learning where one of her colleagues canvased on behalf of a candidate during last year’s general election. The Washington Post was first to report the story.
The Maryland Democratic Party immediately denounced Lisanti’s statement and asked her to step down earlier this week.
On the group’s Facebook page, a statement reads “The ability to understand, navigate, and respect people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures is now a strategic democratic imperative that must be understood and honored by elected officials and public servants of all stripes.” The group says it will be adopting a new initiative to strengthen our party on the values of “diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need our current and future elected officials, campaign operatives, and volunteers to be more effective and efficient in engaging and serving ALL communities of our state,’ the statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is also asking Lisanti to step down. “Del. Lisanti not only said the racial slur publicly, denigrating the majority Black constituents of her colleagues from Prince George’s County, but also does not seem to think it is unusual to use the slur. This raises grave concerns about her ability to honorably represent Black residents of Harford County, and all residents across the State who care about fairness and racial equity. All of Del. Lisanti’s constituents deserve to have an elected leader who respects them and takes seriously their needs when making policy decisions that directly impact their lives, said Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director in a statement on Wednesday. “Del. Lisanti, you must step down,” Shelley said.
On Tuesday, Lisanti was stripped from her position of chairperson of a House subcommittee and has apologized to the Maryland Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and others, while simultaneously stating that she doesn’t actually recall making the statement at the bar last month.
The apology and her memory of the event has rubbed some lawmakers the wrong way.
Del. Michele Guyton said of Lisanti’s Tuesday apology, that parts of the apology itself were also offensive and intolerable.
In a statement on her Delegate Facebook page, Del. Guyton, a Democrat who represents Baltimore County District 42B said, “This morning we heard a tearful apology from a Harford County Delegate (Mary Ann Lisanti) who has been the focus of several Washington Post articles accusing her of using a racially charged slur earlier this session. One of her most inaccurate and upsetting comments about this instance was her claim that this type of language is commonplace. So commonplace, in fact, that she could not remember saying it on the occasion in question.”
Guyton said, “As a fellow white woman, I am particularly offended by this statement and believe that it reflects all of us in a terrible light that breeds mistrust in this beautifully diverse House. For the record, this hate-laden language is NOT normal and is NOT a part of my vocabulary. I would not tolerate it in a friend or member of my family. It exposes a character flaw that is not easily repaired, but I hope Delegate Lisanti is able to learn from her behavior and teach others what is acceptable – and more importantly, what is not.”
The Baltimore Post reached out to Del. Lisanti’s office for comment. The call went to her voicemail.
But in a public statement, Lisantis said in part, “I will not repeat it here, but I am ashamed of what I said and want to address it with you, my friends and supporters, directly – and ask for your forgiveness. I deeply apologize to my constituents, my colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly, the Citizens of Maryland and all who are reading this for my word choice. I am sickened that word came out of my mouth. It is not in my vocabulary, and it does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what’s in my heart.”