Two GOP lawmakers in Kentucky have apologized after using an anti-Semitic phrase during a discussion of a state lease agreement on Tuesday.
The state’s Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee was discussing leasing agreements when Republican state Rep. Walker Thomas could be heard on a hot mic laughing while asking if the state could “Jew them down on the price,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The committee chair, Republican state Sen. Rick Girdler, repeated Thomas’ words.
“We’ve got a representative up here [asking] if you could Jew them down a little bit on the price,” Girdler said before he apparently recognized that the language was offensive.
“That ain’t the right word to use,” he corrected himself. “‘Drop them down,’ I guess.”
The phrase “Jew down” is an anti-Semitic expression that “plays into the trope of Jews as greedy money handlers who are unwilling to part with their earnings,” according to the American Jewish Committee.
Thomas apologized for using the term but claimed he didn’t completely realize its historical use as hate speech.
“I sincerely regret using that term and apologize to anyone harmed by my use of it. This is not who I am, nor is it what my faith leads me to be,” Thomas said, according to the Herald-Leader. “It is a phrase I have heard throughout my life, but this experience has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the impact that words have and the fact that we must be smarter today than we were yesterday.“
Girdler also apologized, saying he was “deeply sorry if I offended anyone,” the paper said. “I have no hate or malice in my heart for anyone in the Jewish community.”
Some Twitter users were more accepting of the apologies than others.