Calif. Lawmaker Causes a Stir with Remark Offensive to Jews

A California legislator has learned, somewhat to her surprise, that the expression “jew down” is not acceptable language on the floor of the State Assembly.

Assemblywoman Kathleen Honeycutt, a first-term Republican from San Bernardino County outside Los Angeles, used the offensive phrase while commenting on the practice of some general contractors in the construction industry to squeeze their subcontractors financially.

The practice, Honeycutt said, “gives the contractor great leverage to kind of jew down the subcontractor,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

After she finished her remarks, a fellow legislator told her in measured tones that he found the term offensive. Honeycutt apologized, but the matter did not rest there.

The following day, the debate was rebroadcast to 2.6 million cable television subscribers, eliciting protests from some viewers and from other legislators in a state still nervous about past and potential ethnic tensions.

Two Jewish legislators and 11 others issued a sharply worded letter urging Honeycutt to “reflect upon her comment and attitude.”

Honeycutt, who won election last November after running on a Christian fundamentalist, anti-abortion platform, apologized again in an interview, but initially managed to dig her hole a little deeper.

“I had used the term in the past and never thought of the offense it would cause someone who is Jewish,” she said. “It just had not occurred to me.” She added, however, that “I needed correcting on it, and I stand corrected.”

Honeycutt also assured the news media that she had “some very dear (Jewish) family friends,” among them a man who gave her first job, the doctor who delivered her children and a dentist for whom her mother worked.

“They are all wonderful Jewish people,” she concluded.

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