Del. Nancy Jacobs, the Harford County legislator who distributed a parody over the Internet this week that was criticized as racist, has apologized to her colleagues, saying it "breaks my heart" that she offended people.
"Had I thought or realized that I was passing on a piece of material that ANYONE would view as racist, I would never have done it," the conservative Republican legislator wrote. "Obviously I regret that I did not give the article a thorough review before forwarding it. That will NOT happen again."
Jacobs' message went out via electronic mail Thursday night, just hours after a Sun reporter called to ask her about the parody, an anti-government spoof of the Aesop fable of "The Ant and the Grasshopper."
The Sun reported yesterday that many legislators, Republicans as well as Democrats, considered the parody racially offensive.
In the purported "liberal version" of the fable, the hard-working ant loses his home to the government after the lazy grass-hopper complains that he has been a victim of "green bias" and "30 million years of greenism."
The parody, which has been widely distributed on the Internet and read on the air approvingly by right-wing radio talk show hosts, includes references to the "NAAGB" (The National Association for the Advancement of Green Bugs). An official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the terminology an obvious code word for black people.
Jacobs told her colleagues in her message that she was "flabbergasted" that the story would be viewed as racist.
"Knowing that my actions have offended people I care about breaks my heart. Please accept my deepest apologies," her message concluded.
One of Jacobs' Harford County colleagues said the message had been misdirected.
"It's not me that's owed an apology," said Del. Mary Louise Preis, a Democrat who shares a district with Jacobs. "I think it's the constituents of Harford County who are owed an apology and the people who may have been made fun of by this little story."
Jacobs has been considered a likely 1998 candidate for the Maryland Senate seat held by Republican David R. Craig, who said yesterday that he has decided to run for Harford County executive.
Yesterday, Jacobs said she did not know whether the controversy would affect her decision on whether to run.
"I had not even thought of that," she said. "I'm just trying to get through this incident."
One African-American delegate, Baltimore Democrat Kenneth Montague, said he believes Jacobs' apology was sincere but that the incident still raises serious questions about whether she has the sensitivity and "consciousness" to represent a diverse constituency.
The parody and Jacobs' role in distributing it became a hot topic yesterday on Baltimore talk radio. Brian Wilson, a self-described libertarian who was filling in for Allan Prell yesterday on WBAL Radio, said most of the people who called to talk about Jacobs were supportive of her.
Wilson, who had read the same fable over the air the day before, said Jacobs called during the program yesterday morning to repeat her assertions that she had not seen any racial overtones to the parody.
"I said, 'Why did you apologize?' " Wilson said. "Why not give these people $1 and say buy yourself a sense of humor?"
The talk show host said he believed "the racial implications are obvious" but that the only mistake was made by "the blacks who got their boxers in a bunch" over the incident.
Pub Date: 6/28/97