The chairman of a House health subcommittee said today that he should not have called Louis W. Sullivan "a disgrace to his race" when he criticized the Health and Human Services secretary.
"To the secretary, I have to say I blew it," Rep. Pete Stark (D-Oakland) told the House. But he reiterated criticism of Sullivan, who is black, for supporting Administration policies that are "bankrupt" and damaging to minorities.
Sullivan had demanded an apology, responding to the original criticism with: "I don't live on Pete Stark's plantation."
Stark, who is white, said his reference to race had obscured his central complaint about Sullivan's positions on abortion, health care and civil rights. Stark is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's subcommittee on health.
Republicans had strongly criticized Stark for his statement Thursday, and the White House castigated what it called Stark's "bigoted assault."
Before Stark spoke, House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) led a series of Republican critics on the House floor, charging that Stark had brought "discredit on this institution" and demanding an apology. He called Stark's attack "as bizarre as it is deplorable."