Maryland Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D.) apologized Monday night to the leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus after witnesses say she used a racial slur while describing a legislative district in Prince George’s County, though the lawmaker says she does not remember using the alleged slur.
Lisanti, 51, a white female lawmaker, was approached by members of the Legislative Black Caucus Monday night after it was reported she made the racist comment after work hours at a cigar bar in Annapolis, Maryland, while speaking to a white colleague in late January, the Washington Post reported.
Democratic Del. Darryl Barnes, who chairs the Black Caucus and represents a district in Prince George's County, said Lisanti apologized to the caucus multiple times. He wants her to take further steps toward absolution, however, telling the Post he thinks when anyone uses the word, it's "a reflection of what’s in their heart."
"She apologized several times," Barnes said. "She recognizes how she has hurt so many within the caucus, and she hoped to repent from this. She said that she doesn’t remember fully what happened, but she recognizes what happened."
Barnes wants Lisanti "to apologize to the entire caucus and participate in sensitivity training. He left open the possibility that the caucus might offer other recommendations to House leadership," according to the Post.
Lisanti, who is in her second term, was questioned by the Post earlier this month about her alleged use of the racial slur, but she claimed, "I don’t recall that … I don’t recall much of that evening."
She was also asked whether she has used the term before, prompting her to admit, "I’m sure I have. … I’m sure everyone has used it. I’ve used the f-word. I used the Lord’s name in vain."
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D) met with Lisanti on Tuesday morning and expressed his "extreme disappointment and concern over her irresponsible and hurtful actions.
"I informed her that she would no longer chair the Unemployment Insurance Subcommittee, as I believe that leaders in the House need to be able to bring people together- not tear them apart," Busch said.
Lisanti released a statement, agreeing to participate in sensitivity training.
"I am sorry for the hurt I have caused and will do everything I can to help heal that pain and regain the trust of my colleagues and constituents," Lisanti said. "I pray for forgiveness."
Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, one of Lisanti's Democratic colleagues, said "it is very disheartening and frustrating" to hear one of her colleagues use the term in 2019. Sample-Hughes also wondered why her colleague appeared comfortable using the word, prompting her to ask Lisanti during meeting whether somebody in her household used the term when she was growing up.
"She didn’t give a direct response," Sample-Hughes said.
Another member of the Black Caucus, who was briefed on the remarks by three people who witnessed the incident, said the racial slur was "highly offensive."
"You are making policies for black people," said the lawmaker , who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If multiple individuals said you referred to a district in Prince George’s [with a racial slur], you should apologize."
Updated 11:41 p.m.: This post was updated with Busch's comments and Lisanti's statement.