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Kentucky lawmakers apologize for using phrase ‘Jew them down’ during meeting

Sen. Rick Girdler (left) and Rep. Walker Thomas (right) are backtracking on comments made...
Sen. Rick Girdler (left) and Rep. Walker Thomas (right) are backtracking on comments made during a Kentucky Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee considered to be anti-Semitic.(legislature.ky.gov)
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 5:06 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 5:08 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Two Kentucky legislators are backtracking on comments made during a Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee considered to be anti-Semitic.

Sen. Rick Girdler (R-Somerset) and Rep. Walker Thomas (R-Hopkinsville) apologized for using the phrase “Jew them down” in reference to negotiating a lower lease price during the meeting on Tuesday, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

Following a presentation about the Department of Corrections’ $1 lease from a Mayfield company, which was needed after the Dec. 10 storms, and another $1 lease for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, Thomas is heard softly laughing after asking if the state could “Jew them down on the price.”

Girdler, the chairman of the committee, then repeats Thomas’ words before correcting himself.

“We’ve got a representative up here (asking) if you could Jew them down a little bit on the price,” Girdler said. “That ain’t the right word to use. ‘Drop them down,’ I guess.”

Thomas told the Herald Leader he had heard the phrase his entire life and apologized to anyone he might have offended by using it.

“I sincerely regret using that term and apologize to anyone harmed by my use of it,” he said. “This is not who I am, nor is it what my faith leads me to be. It is a phrase I have heard throughout my life, but this experience has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the impact that words have and the fact that we must be smarter today than we were yesterday.”

Girdler also offered an apology, saying he was sorry for being offensive.

“I have no hate or malice in my heart for anyone in the Jewish community,” he said.

Kentucky Jewish Council contacted WAVE and said KJC Chairman Rabbi Shlomo Litvin explained the history of the expression to Girdler and Walker, as well as the damage it has caused. They apologized and assured Litvin that they weren’t intolerant of the Jewish community.

“Words of hate, even if not said with hateful intent, cause damage,” a KJC statement said. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, often spoke of the power of negative words, and stress the harm that even words in passing can cause. Every elected official should take this as a learning opportunity. This is not a simple turn of phrase. It’s a dangerous relic of a hateful bygone era that has no place in Kentucky.”

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