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Colorado GOP lawmaker who used racist term is reprimanded
May 06

Editors Note UPDATES: Adds comments by House speaker, GOP lawmaker, details and background. Links photo. With AP Photos.

By JAMES ANDERSON
Associated Press

DENVER (AP) _ A Republican lawmaker in Colorado was reprimanded Thursday after calling a colleague ``Buckwheat'' during debate on legislation _ a racist term that provoked outcry from Democrats at a time when America is confronting its history of discrimination.

It wasn't clear who state Rep. Richard Holtorf was directing the remarks to Wednesday during debate on a stimulus measure. Holtorf, who is white, quickly said he was using the word as a ``term of endearment,'' furthering angering Democrats, before he apologized.

``I'm getting there. Don't worry, Buckwheat. I'm getting there,'' Holtorf told someone in the chamber. ``That's an endearing term, by the way.''

A lawmaker shouted at Holtorf, and his remarks provoked a temporary break in legislative business. Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod, who is Black, rushed to the podium to confront him. Video of the remarks spread widely on social media.

Buckwheat was a Black child character in the ``Our Gang'' or ``Little Rascals,'' serials of the 1930s, and is widely considered a racial stereotype. Holtorf told The Colorado Sun that he wasn't aware of the racial connotations of the term.

Democratic House Speaker Alec Garnett told a silent chamber on Thursday that he'd had a long conversation with Holtorf and with lawmakers who were offended by the remarks.

``I'm thankful you agree to do your part to reset the decorum of this session,'' Garnett told Holtorf before declaring that ``discriminatory remarks, whether intentionally launched or carelessly said, have absolutely no place in this House. '

``Yesterday, the decorum of this institution was grossly breached,'' Garnett said. ``I'm sorry to say this is not the first time this session, but I'm speaking today to make sure it is the last.''

Garnett said he'd spoken with a lawmaker, whom he didn't name, ``and I heard last night how this one word took a member of this body back to a place that they thought they had outlived,'' adding that the ``word took them back to a place that they hoped would never reappear, to feelings of a darker time.''

A chastened Holtorf apologized again from the podium Thursday but didn't didn't directly refer to his comments.

``I hope you all understand that I see all of you as my brothers and sisters, all created by God and all equal,'' Holtorf said. ``You all have my sincerest apologies.''

Holtorf was appointed to represent a district in the Eastern Plains when Republican Rep. Kimmi Lewis died of cancer in 2019. He was elected outright last year.

In February, Holtorf clashed with Rep. Tom Sullivan, a suburban Denver Democrat and gun control advocate who was speaking about the loss of his son, Alex, in the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012 that left 11 others dead.

``You have to let it go,'' Holtorf told Sullivan at the time.

Sullivan shouted at Holtorf when he made his remarks Wednesday.

``Words matter. (FULL STOP),'' Sullivan tweeted Wednesday. ``We MUST NOT accept the use of racist language.''

Herod, the Black lawmaker who confronted Holtorf, is a rising star among Colorado Democrats and has long fought racial injustice.

``This is what I have to deal with Every. Damn. Day.,`` she tweeted.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2019