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Big Island lawmaker apologies for racial remarks

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Mar 11 2013 05:58:51 AM HST
Updated On: Mar 01 2013 10:25:27 AM HST

Representative Faye Hanohano apologizes for racial remarks.

HONOLULU -

The accusation was over hurtful words.  On Thursday, it was Rep. Faye Hanohano who was hurting.

The incident happened on Monday at Rep. Faye Hanohano's office.

The exhibition staff for the Arts in Public Places program was installing artwork, and the representative asked why there was none from Native Hawaiians.

But staff from the Foundation of Culture and the Arts said they were stunned into silence when Hanohano used racial slurs to say any work done by Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Caucasians should be taken away.

They claim she then went on to threaten to cut the foundation's funding if they didn’t provide Hawaiian artwork.

"We all know there is no place in the whole of the U.S. for this, especially here in Hawaii where everyone gets along," said Eva Laird Smith of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Smith met with House Speaker Joe Souki and was assured there would be corrective action.

"They realized there is no place for prejudice of that sort," said Smith.

In her floor speech, Hanohano used the Hawaiian Word of the Day to try and make it all right.

"Today's word is mihi, which means to apologize and I humbly who may have been offended," Hanohano said.

"Let me re-affirm my commitment to all of you that I will to serve my people and the people of the state of Hawaii to the  best of my ability and integrity and for the honor and integrity of my Kupuna. Mihi, apologize," Hanohano said.

Hanohano's staffers say the lawmaker had planned to say more and wanted to release a statement about what happened but House speaker Joe Souki's office wouldn’t allow it.

Her speech came after a majority caucus on Thursday, and this afternoon a Republican lawmaker offered his support.

"I firmly believe in the aloha spirit. It comes time to extend aloha when they sincerely apologize for a mistake they made, and I think this is one of those moments," said Minority Whip Rep. Richard Fale.

But now some are questioning whether what Hanohano said was enough, and some are calling for her to step down.

Speaker Souki released a statement saying he does not condone this type of offensive language.

Hanohano will be sending a letter of apology to the exhibit team.

She indicated she was trying to support Native Hawaiian artists, but did not express it appropriately.

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