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Oklahoma lawmaker apologizes for ethnic slur

He says his comment was inappropriate and regrets making the comment during a debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 18, 2013

An Oklahoma lawmaker apologized Wednesday for using an ethnic slur while debating on the House floor for a bill that would allow merchants to legally offer deep discounts on goods.

“I made an offhand reference that was inappropriate and I know that it hurt some folks,” said Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, after lawmakers adjourned for the day. “I acknowledge that. I regret that. I apologize for it. It was unintentional.”

Johnson, a businessman, was debating on the floor of the House of Representatives for Senate Bill 550, which would legalize low-price retail sales in Oklahoma for the first time since 1941.

He said small businesses can compete with larger stores and chains because they offer customer service, even though customers might try to “Jew me down on a price.”

Johnson continued with his debate, until a nearby lawmaker told him what he said.

“Did I?” Johnson asked. “I apologize to the Jews. They're good small businessmen as well.”

Johnson, 59, said he grew up hearing that term, but doesn't know why he repeated that phrase.

“It just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain and it was not something that was intentional,” said Johnson, who is serving his fourth two-year term. “I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone and I apologize for the folks I did offend. It is a comment that should never be made. I will never do it again.”

Johnson said a much better word would have been negotiate.

“Unfortunately I didn't use that word,” he said.

Joe Griffin, spokesman for House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said Johnson is a close friend of the speaker's and that he is not the first person to make a comment they regret.

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