Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Heat still on Bunning

Lawmaker chides GOP, Democrats for not repudiating 'joke'

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A lawmaker descended from a Syrian immigrant on Monday denounced U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning's remarks in which he said his likely Democratic opponent looks like one of Saddam Hussein's sons.

"When I look at you, I see an American," state Sen. David Karem told his Democratic colleague, Daniel Mongiardo, who was the target of Bunning's recent remarks at a Republican event.

Karem, of Louisville, condemned Bunning's remarks as "unconscionable." He chided Republicans and Democrats alike for not speaking out forcefully in repudiating Bunning's comments.

Mongiardo sat quietly a couple of rows away in the Senate chamber as Karem delivered his speech. When Karem finished, Democratic senators stood and applauded while Republicans sat quietly.

Karem said his own father was born in Syria nearly a century ago and arrived in this country as a "black-haired, dark-eyed" boy at age 4.

His father went on to become a circuit court judge and writer.

"With this background, you can grasp how it hurt my heart to hear our United States senator make terrible, ugly, inappropriate remarks about another black-haired, dark-eyed, young Kentuckian," Karem said.

Mongiardo has pressed Bunning's campaign to publicly release a videotape from the event at which Bunning made the remark.

Bunning's campaign manager has declined to make the tape available. The remark was made last month at the annual 4th Congressional District Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner in Florence in northern Kentucky.

Bunning's campaign initially denied the remark, then later said it was a joke.

"It's over," Bunning said Monday during an appearance in Louisville. "We sent over an apology. It's over. I'm not going to comment about anything other than what I've already commented on."

Karem criticized Bunning for not personally apologizing to Mongiardo. He also said others should speak up to condemn the remarks.

"Where are my friends in the Republican Party who know in their hearts these were unconscionable remarks," Karem said.

Karem also chided his party's own state chairman, Bill Garmer, for issuing "only a tepid denunciation."

Senate President David Williams said he did not believe Bunning owed Mongiardo a further apology.

"I think that Senator Bunning has apologized and said that his statement shouldn't have been made and that's it," Williams said.

Bunning did not owe Mongiardo an apology beyond a public one, because the comments were made in public and not privately, Williams said.

Mongiardo is a physician from the Appalachian town of Hazard whose parents emigrated from Italy. He is running in the Democratic primary against David Lynn Williams of Glasgow, a perennial candidate who is not running an active campaign.

Bunning is seeking a second six-year term in the Senate. He is opposed in the May 18 primary election by former state Sen. Barry Metcalf of Richmond, whom he defeated in the 1998 primary.

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