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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Md. delegate who used racial slur stripped of leadership role

'The apology was not acceptable,' delegate says

Del Mary Ann Lisanti, D-Harford County (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, D-Harford. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS — A Harford County Democrat delegate has been stripped of her leadership position after she used a racial slur.

House Speaker Michael Busch announced the decision Tuesday following a Washington Post report that Del. Mary Ann Lisanti used a slur to describe an area of Prince George’s County. Lisanti acknowledged previously using the slur but has not said she did so on the occasion highlighted by the paper.

Busch, in his statement, expressed disappointment in Lisanti “for her use of the n-word.”

“While I believe her apology was heartfelt, the damage among her colleagues and the public has been done,” Busch said in the statement. “I met with her this morning and expressed my 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.

“There is no member of the House of Delegates that is less than or inferior to any other member. As speaker, I will demand that every member treat each other with the respect and dignity that they deserve – and also treat the citizens of Maryland that way,” said Busch in his statement.

Lisanti has also agreed to undergo sensitivity training.

“I hope that through the sensitivity training that Delegate Lisanti has agreed to and the help of her colleagues, she will develop a greater understanding of the impact that she has had on her fellow legislators and the entire House of Delegates,” said Busch. “Like anyone who has made a mistake, she has the opportunity for redemption – but it is her responsibility to do so and earn back the trust of her colleagues.”

The decision by the longtime leader of the House comes a day after newspaper reports surfaced that Lisanti used the slur at an Annapolis cigar bar.

Lisanti, in a statement, apologized for her “word choice.”

“I deeply apologize to the citizens of my district, people of Maryland, and all of my colleagues in the Maryland General Assembly and everyone reading this for my word choice several weeks ago,” Lisanti said in the statement. “I am sickened that a word that is not in my vocabulary came out of my mouth. It does not represent my belief system, my life’s work or what is my heart.”

Lisanti, who was first elected in 2014, was chairwoman of the House Economic Matters Subcommittee on Workers’ Compensation Benefit and Insurance Oversight. She is alleged to have used a racial slur during a conversation at an Annapolis bar earlier this year, according to a report from The Washington Post.

Lisanti told the newspaper she did not remember the evening in question or remember telling another white lawmaker that night that when he campaigned for a colleague in Prince George’s County that he door-knocked in a “n—– district.” She did tell the paper that she had used the slur previously.

Lisanti departed the chamber without speaking to reporters but was seen less than an hour later leaving Busch’s office with Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, and Del. Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore.

In her statement, Lisanti said she accepted the sanctions leveled against her.

“I understand that the use of inappropriate and insensitive language is not acceptable under any circumstance,” Lisanti said in her statement. “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. I pray for forgiveness.”

Lisanti’s reported comments come as elected officials are under intense scrutiny after a medical school yearbook surfaced that shows a man in black face standing next to another individual clad in a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood on the page of Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a student at the time.

The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus said Tuesday morning his members are considering next steps and possible consequences for a state delegate accused of using a racial slur.

Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s, said he plans on meeting with leadership of the House of Delegates, including Busch, as soon as today.

“She did apologize,” said Barnes. “Her apology, some would say, was not remorseful enough, and we asked her to apologize before the whole Democratic Caucus, which she did. We also have asked that she take some form of sensitivity training. Folks are calling for her resignation. Some folks are calling for her to be removed from her chairmanship.”

Barnes said he and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus are getting calls from constituents. Other legislators, he said, are expressing outrage.

Barnes said he supports additional consequences for Lisanti but declined to say which options he favored.

“We’re looking at what those next steps will be,” said Barnes. “I do believe whatever happens will be done swiftly.”

Barnes said Lisanti apologized to the executive committee of the Legislative Black Caucus and again Tuesday morning to House Democrats but did not acknowledge using the slur on the night in question.

“She had said she had used those words before,” said Barnes.


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