Rep. Dennis Johnson used the word "Jew" in the context of negotiating a lower price for an item while discussing a bill to modify a current law that requires a minimum 6% markup on the retail sale of most goods.
After several legislators remarked on his comment, Johnson, 59, apologized on the floor. He says he later apologized to the speaker of the House and offered to deliver an apology on the floor.
“I made an offhand reference that was inappropriate, and I know that it hurt some folks. I acknowledge that. I regret that. I apologize for it,” Johnson said. “I’m almost 60 years old, and it’s a phrase that was used when I was kid, and it was used often.
“It was just something that came out from the wrinkles of my brain. I certainly did not mean to offend anyone, and I apologize to the folks that I did offend.”
Rabbi Vered Harris of the Temple B’Nai Israel in Oklahoma City said the term in that context is obviously offensive.
“Clearly it is derogatory toward the Jewish people to associate the Jewish community with trying to be cheap or trying to be unscrupulous in business transactions,” Harris said. “I’m very grateful that he realized he said something hurtful and was willing to apologize.”
Johnson’s comment was not the first decorum breach in the Legislature this year. During a legislative deadline last month, tempers flared when the House worked until midnight. One member was gaveled down after cursing loudly and another apologized after getting into a shouting match with the lawmaker presiding over debate.
Two years ago, state Rep. Sally Kern was reprimanded and delivered an apology on the House floor after denigrating blacks and women during a debate on an affirmative action bill.