One political dodge I have always despised is the non-apology apology, as in “if what I said offended you, I am sorry.” What?
Several weeks ago I filed a column item tagged “Everyone Loves Nina,” a send-up in my mind on the long-running TV comedy, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Therein, tongue-in-cheek, I then described county legislature Democratic minority leader Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz as “an Hispanic terrier named Hector.”
Rodriguez took umbrage and I can’t blame him. Actually intended as a compliment, the reference required more context, as follows:
Rodriguez is proud of his heritage and rightly so. As a six-term legislator from New Paltz and Democratic minority leader, he is by definition one of our more prominent public officials. He is also a tenacious advocate for those causes he believes in, thus the terrier analogy.
In recent months, he has spoken directly to one of those causes. Late last year, a Republican legislator inadvertently referred to Rodriguez as “Lopez” (Craig Lopez, their Republican colleague from Pine Bush). “Some people think we all look alike,” Rodriguez soft-voiced into his microphone. He did not smile. The offending legislator apologized profusely.
Last month, in his annual minority party report to the legislature, Rodriguez spoke to diversity in the law-making body, referring to “three people of color,” himself, Lopez and newly-elected Democrat the Rev. Julius Collins, an African-American from Ellenville.
Rodriguez and I have gotten along well enough over the years, the occasional conflicts between reporters and subjects notwithstanding. Lately, we’ve been at odds over economic development issues. These things tend to pass.
The bottom line is the “Hispanic terrier” reference in the article, however intended, was ill-considered and hurtful.