Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer apologized today for using an offensive ethnic remark while campaigining for the U.S. Senate seat from New York.
“Evidently, it is an antiquated colloquialism that I’ve grown up with and never realized it was offensive in any way,” Spencer said. “It’s not important what I think, it’s important what the people who are offended think and therefore I apologize,” Spencer told the Westchester Journal News.
Yesterday, during a live radio interview on WVOX in New Rochelle, Spencer said Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro didn’t have — in his words — “a Chinaman’s chance that she could get the Conservative line.”
Spencer, Pirro and Manhattan lawyer Edward Cox are all seeking the Republican and Conservative nominations to oust incumbent Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2006.
Several Asian-American groups quickly criticized Spencer, who at first defended the phrase as a reference to the experience of Chinese immigrants working on U.S. railroads, saying it was “not derogatory at all.”
He says he had been persuaded it was offensive to some Chinese because “it brings up a reference to a sad point of history that itself is offensive” — that the Chinese railroad laborers faced long odds of survival.