Rangel: ‘I sincerely apologize’ for Mississippi remark

Published 5:11 pm Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Group hug, please.

A New York congressman says he’s sorry for making remarks about Mississippi that some in the Southern state saw as fightin’ words.

In The New York Times last week, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., talked about wanting to bring more federal money back to his home state, and added: “Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?”

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Rangel issued a news release Monday night, saying: “There is no excuse for my having said that. I am fully aware that every American loves their respective state and city and I’m afraid that my love and affection for New York got in the way of my common sense and judgment, and for that I sincerely apologize.”

Rangel’s first remark — which came after Democrats regained the congressional majorities in the midterm elections — prompted indignant letters to the editor, Internet postings and calls to talk radio in Mississippi.

U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering had called on Rangel to apologize and asked whether Mississippi could expect “insults, slander and defamation” from the Democrats in Washington.

Now, Pickering says he accepts Rangel’s apology.

“Mississippians are forgiving folks,” Pickering said.

Rangel’s spokesman, Elbert Garcia, confirms that at a Monday breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York, Rangel said: “For all of you from Mississippi, I’d like to extend my deepest apologies. I promise I’ll visit as soon as I find a food taster.”

Pickering responded Tuesday: “He will not need a food taster to enjoy our hospitality.”

Rangel is in line to become chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

In talking about wanting to bring more federal money to New York, he said he used Mississippi as an example because it gets back $1.77 for every $1 it sends to the federal government, and New York gets back 79 cents on the dollar.

Mississippi has long been one of the poorest states in the nation, and it has received billions of federal dollars since Hurricane Katrina struck more than 14 months ago.

Like Pickering, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has used Rangel’s first remark to question how Mississippi will fare with Democrats controlling Congress.

Before winning the governorship three years ago, Barbour was a high-profile Washington lobbyist. He said he has known Rangel for a long time.

“We hope that he will be a chairman who is a good ally to those of us in the Gulf South who have been hurt so much by this hurricane,” Barbour said Tuesday. “And I assume, suspect, that his apology is a way for him to indicate that.”