State Education Secretary Richard Riordan has apologized for joking that a child’s name meant “stupid dirty girl.”
In a videotaped exchange at the city’s central library Thursday, a girl asked Riordan if he knew that her name meant “Egyptian goddess.”
Riordan, who apparently believed he’d been asked what her name meant, replied, “It means stupid, dirty girl.” Some in the room laughed nervously, and the girl again told Riordan the meaning of her name. “Hey, that’s nifty,” he said.
Local television station KEYT-TV Channel 3 videotaped the exchange.
On Friday, Riordan issued a statement saying he had “teased” the girl, who was not identified. “I immediately apologized to her, and I want to do so again for the misunderstanding,” he said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a longtime friend who appointed the former Los Angeles mayor to his cabinet, said in a statement that the comments were “unacceptable in any context.”
“We must always focus on encouraging and supporting children. I’ve known Dick Riordan for a long time, and I know that he would never knowingly or intentionally upset a child.”
Riordan was in Santa Barbara to promote his summer book club.