The Republican leader of the Washington Senate said he regrets using the word “racist” to describe ousted Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson.
The comment followed a Senate vote Friday afternoon not to confirm Peterson to the job three years after she was appointed. Senator Mark Schoesler used the word after showing a reporter a letter from the state’s Civil Rights Coalition. It complained Peterson was more concerned about supporting women-owned businesses than minority-owned businesses.
Democrats immediately reacted to the comment.
“A racist, for what? She’s trying to bring people together,” Democrat Steve Hobbs said. “She’s been trying really hard to have minority-owned businesses be a participant in our transportation package.”
Soon after, Republican Ann Rivers was asked about Schoesler’s comment and disavowed it.
“Oh, I wouldn’t agree with that at all. I don’t agree with that,” Rivers said. “I think as we look at minority-owned businesses we have to take extra steps to make sure that we are meeting federal mandates.”
Schoesler said it was a “poor use of words” in the “heat of battle” as Republicans and Democrats were raising their voices to be heard by reporters.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation said “any suggestion that Secretary Peterson is racist is absurd.”