A white Maryland lawmaker lost her leadership position Tuesday after using a racial slur for black people at an after-hours gathering at a cigar store in the state capital.
Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, a 51-year-old Democrat in her second term representing Harford County northeast of Baltimore, apologized to the Maryland House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday. A day earlier she issued an apology to leaders of the state's Legislative Black Caucus.
Del. Darryl Barnes, the caucus chairman, described the apology as "woefully inadequate" and urged House Speaker Michael Busch, in a letter, to discipline the delegate.
Lisanti, in her statement of apology, said she was "sickened" she had used the slur word, which "does not represent my belief system."
"I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and will do everything I can to help heal the pain and regain the trust of my colleagues and constituents," Lisanti said.
The Washington Post was first to report Monday that Lisanti allegedly used the slur late last month during a gathering with fellow legislators to refer to Prince George's County, which is majority black. Asked about it by the newspaper earlier this month, the Post reported that she said: "I don't recall that ... I don't recall much of that evening."
When asked by the Post whether she had ever used the slur, the newspaper reported that she said: "I'm sure I have ... I'm sure everyone has used it."
Busch, a Democrat, announced Lisanti would no longer chair a House subcommittee, because "I believe that leaders in the House need to be able to bring people together — not tear them apart." The speaker also said Lisanti has agreed to sensitivity training.
"I hope that through sensitivity training that Delegate Lisanti has agreed to and the help of her colleagues, she will develop a greater understanding of the impact that she has had on her fellow legislators and the entire House of Delegates," Busch said in a statement.
Barnes, whose district is in the county Lisanti referred to, noted in his letter to the speaker that African-Americans make up nearly 30 percent of Maryland's population. He also pointed out that the Maryland General Assembly has 57 black members out of 188 legislators.
"It is clear that Delegate Lisanti is unsuited to continue in a position of leadership in the Maryland General Assembly," Barnes said in the letter. "We have been receiving calls for her resignation, removal of subcommittee chairmanship, and to be censured on the House floor."
In neighboring Virginia, state government 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 resisted calls to resign.