Tennessee lawmaker apologizes after racially offensive joke

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A white Tennessee lawmaker asked for forgiveness on the House floor Monday after he made a racially offensive joke hours before to a black representative.

“I am extremely sorry that an offhand attempt at humor hurt your feelings,” said Rep. Mike Carter, a Republican from Ooltewah. “I deeply regret those remarks and now I ask for your forgiveness.”

Earlier that day while chairing a House panel, Carter had made the offhand remark while trying to get the attention of Rep. Joe Towns, a Democrat from Memphis.

The remark quickly drew criticism online.

Fellow Democratic black lawmakers declared the comment was particularly inappropriate given nationwide protests against police brutality after the Minneapolis death in police custody of an African-American man, George Floyd.

Towns later said he did not hear Carter’s remark and that is why he did not immediately respond to Carter’s comment.

Carter offered his apology Monday in front of the GOP-dominated House floor.

“I appreciate you being man enough to come before this body … this is exactly how you rectify certain things,” Towns said.

“Today is a topsy-turvy kind of day. There’s so much going on in this country,” Towns added. “It’s very critical that we have to mind our words.”

Carter promised that he would work with Towns on legislation addressing “any issues of racial reconciliation.”

A week earlier, members of the Tennessee Black Caucus passionately spoke of systematic racism on the House floor.

The speeches came two days after Floyd protests in Nashville turned violent. The demonstrations in the state’s capital city have been overwhelmingly peaceful since.

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