- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2005

The Maryland Democratic Party is calling for an apology from Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele for endorsing a book by an author who accuses Democrats of exploiting blacks but is declining to seek an apology from national party Chairman Howard Dean for describing Republicans as a ‘white Christian party.’

‘I don’t think there is a double standard,’ said Derek Walker, spokesman for the state Democratic Party.

Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman, who has initiated a petition drive for Mr. Steele’s apology, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But former state party Chairman Isiah Leggett yesterday said Mr. Dean’s comments warrant an apology as much as Mr. Steele’s book endorsement.

‘Those comments [by Mr. Dean] are over the top and should be retracted. They were overly broad and missed the mark,” Mr. Leggett said.

He stressed that both Mr. Steele and Mr. Dean should apologize, not their respective parties.

Mr. Lierman this week began circulating a letter asking fellow Democrats to sign a petition calling on Mr. Steele, a Republican, to apologize for praising the book “Back to Basics for the Republican Party” by Michael Zak.

The book celebrates the Republican Party’s anti-slavery founders and urges Republicans to challenge Democratic entitlement to the black vote.

In his letter, Mr. Lierman’s cites excerpts from the book and from speeches by Mr. Zak.

For example, “Mastery over blacks has always been Democratic Policy. Before it was cotton. Now it is misery.” And “Democrats are socialists and we should call them socialists. It’s to the Democrats’ advantage children grow up poor and uneducated.”

About 600 people signed on to the petition in the first 24 hours, according to the party.

Mr. Lierman criticized Mr. Steele for being quoted on an Internet site promoting the book as being “phenomenal,” “outstanding” and “my favorite book.”

He referred to Mr. Steele as a candidate to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes and said the lieutenant governor “failed an important test of character by aligning himself with Michael Zak’s dangerous, deceptive and racially divisive commentary.”

Mr. Steele, who has not announced a Senate run, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

His spokeswoman, Regan Hopper, said the lieutenant governor praised the book years ago and did not endorse Mr. Zak’s recent comments as they were presented in the Lierman letter. She said Mr. Steele does not support “divisive rhetoric.”

She declined to comment on the apology request or on whether Democrats should ask Mr. Dean to apologize.

This week in San Francisco, Mr. Dean — who has faced some recent criticism for his harsh statements about the Republican Party — said Republicans are “a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.”

Last week, Mr. Dean said Republicans had “never made an honest living in their lives.” He later clarified his statement to indicate he was talking about Republican leaders.

“The Democrats can dish it out but they sure can’t take it,” Mr. Zak said of Democrats’ silence over Mr. Dean’s comments while calling for Mr. Steele to apologize.

Mr. Zak said Mr. Leirman’s letter “slammed together disparate quotes … to portray me as a racist.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Walker said Mr. Dean’s comments were not “divisive and deceitful hate speech,” though he did not personally back the party leader’s views. He declined to say whether the Maryland Democratic Party supports Mr. Dean’s remarks.

“I think the point Howard Dean is trying to make is that the Democratic Party has a large tent, so to speak, and that we are a more diverse party,” Mr. Walker said.

Other Democrats, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, also have admonished Mr. Dean for his remarks and distanced themselves from them.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan declined to comment on the state party’s apology request. Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley did not return calls seeking comment.

Both are likely Democratic contenders in the governor’s race next year.

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