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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday accepted the apology of a St. Louis disc jockey fired for calling her a “coon,” saying the incident shows that even mature democracies take centuries to heal racial wounds.
“My understanding is that he apologized, said he didn’t mean it,” Rice told “Fox News Sunday.” “I accept that because we all say things from time to time that we shouldn’t say or didn’t mean to say.”
Dave Lenihan of KTRS in St. Louis apologized on the air immediately after making what he said was a slip of the tongue during his morning show on Wednesday. But the station still fired him.
Lenihan had praised Rice, who has frequently said she aspires to run the NFL one day but has ruled out seeking to replace retiring Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who recently announced his retirement.
On his show, Lenihan said: “She’s been chancellor of Stanford. She’s got the patent resume of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football. She’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.”
He said he had meant to say “coup” instead of the slur. KTRS president and general manager Tim Dorsey agreed that the remark was accidental but announced the same day that Lenihan had been fired.
Rice said Sunday that the incident is evidence that the “birth defect” of slavery infuses even mature democracies with racial tensions that take generations to heal.
Rice added that she hopes the episode inspires Americans to “be a little bit more humble” about the progress of emerging democracies such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan.