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Dov Hikind Apologizes For Real This Time

But does the Brooklyn assemblyman’s influence insulate him from trouble?

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Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.(NYT)

It’s clear that Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind was under some serious pressure yesterday after a series of New York figures lined up to condemn his indecorous racist blackface Purim costume.

First defiant, Hikind later called a press conference to apologize in that non-apologetic “sorry if anyone took offense” kind of way, which didn’t cut it for most. Finally, this morning, he really apologized on his blog:

Some people have marveled at what they’ve characterized as my insensitivity in wearing the costume I wore on Purim. My initial reaction in learning of this was one of shock because my intention was never to hurt or make fun of anyone. Those who know me—in politics and in my personal life—already know this. But others who don’t know me have expressed hurt and outrage, so I am writing to address that once and for all. Unintentional as they were, I recognize now that the connotations of my Purim costume were deeply offensive to many.

I am sincerely sorry that I have hurt anyone. I apologize for the pain that I have caused anyone by this incident, and by any remarks that I have made in connection with it. It genuinely pains me that I have pained any human being. That’s not who I am, not who I want to be. I sincerely hope that this note will soothe any hurt feelings.

Sure, he seems contrite, but what does it say that (a) that it took so much to wrangle this apology from him (b) that there weren’t calls for his resignation? Over at the Observer, Hunter Walker has a theory:

A Brooklyn politico told us political figures running for citywide office are reluctant to take on Mr. Hikind because they fear “retribution” from a man who’s seen as “the gatekeeper of Orthodox Brooklyn.”

“If this were another Assemblyman what would happen here? A three-car pileup of city officials denouncing his actions,” they said of the costume incident before citing names of several elected officials who hadn’t weighed in on the flap.

The local political insider listed several factors as contributing to Mr. Hikind’s strength, including his status as a perceived “kingmaker” in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community, his large war chest and his past association with the militant Jewish Defense League, which has been described by the FBI as a “right-wing terrorist group.”

To be fair, the Jewish Defense League is not really still in operation, so I’m not sure that’s something salient. Nevertheless, Walker makes a good case.

Of course, as one of my colleagues pointed out, another reason there may not have been even more piling on is because some people just don’t care if someone dresses up in blackface.

Earlier: The Dov Hiking Purim Backlash Grows
Fellow Lawmakers Slam Dov Hikind For Purim Costume Featuring Blackface Makeup [NYDN]
A Heartfelt and Sincere Apology [Blogspot]
How Dov Hikind Survived the Blackface Backlash [NYO]

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There is zero mystery about this for people who live in Central Brooklyn and pay attention to local politics. Prog-stars like Bill de Blasio will try to let Hikind have a soft landing. Why? Because de Blasio will try to beat the Mayor’s anointed, Christine Quinn. Borough Park/Midwood votes would sure help. de Blasio believes he has Park Slope/Windsor Terrace/Kensington libs all locked up by his history in those neighborhoods. He’s not worried about offending us. He needs Hikind to help deliver Orthodox Jewish votes in the Democratic Primary. Without doing really well in Brooklyn, Christine Quinn wins.

The whole JDL thing is a non-issue. There’s no need to speculate about shadowy dealings. It’s local politics, clear, simple, and cynical.

This is a good reason a public figure should eschew costume parties in general. You can be singled out and publicly castigated for offending anyone.

It reminds me of the time years ago when the black mayor of Washington DC used a word that sounded like a racist word. The outrage was so loud he was forced to resign in shame.

It is a weird society we live in.

1) “I’m not a racist, I’m a moron” is a dismal excuse, especially for an elected politician, though not a surprising one.

2) The fulsome insincerity, and wretch-inducing self-pity of the mea culpa today are just the flip-side of the truculence on display yesterday: the arrogance of power and the desperation to cling to it.

3) I suspect Dov Hikind still occupies his office for one reason, and one reason only, and it wasn’t cited in the Observer: Sheldon Silver hasn’t decided to fire him. Relatively junior Democratic officials in the State of New York are not truly elected in a meaningful sense, even if you think you’re going to the ballot box to vote for them. They are chosen, and furnished with the financial means to win the local primary, which guarantees them a seat in solidly democratic districts, while giving outsiders without resources no real chance to run on equal terms.

4) I doubt Sheldon Silver, who has repeatedly been criticized for conflicts-of-interest with the law firm he continues to work for (legally under state law), and for blocking legislation that would benefit New Yorkers, and for authorizing secret payoffs to settle sex-harassment suits is going to doing anything about this on account of its ethical implications. He’s only going to act if it becomes too much of a political headache and Hikind becomes a liability.

By the way, Adam, since I don’t think we’re quite finished with this pathetic spectacle, please let us know when Hikind rolls out that good old chestnut, “I’ll let the voters decide my fate.”

marjorie says:

The best line in the NYT piece is “Next year I was thinking I’d be an Indian.” Oy.

The incident you cite was a city official–not the mayor–who, during the course of a budget meeting, used the word niggardly, which of course means stingy, miserly. The word is of Scandinavian origin and has no etymological relation to the n-word.

veggieburgerus says:

Hikind sounds like the DeNiro character in ‘The Mission’, who is commanded to apologize to the Spanish Governor. He apologizes to Don Cabeza, the Cardinal, the assemblage, the little boy……and then his monkey. Don Cabeza finally gets the insincerity.

The fact that I did not know about the retraction just underscores how people remember the sensational, not the addenda. Man bites dog.

LeslieCz says:

Hikind certainly didn’t get the Helen Thomas treatment. Funny how that works.

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Dov Hikind Apologizes For Real This Time

But does the Brooklyn assemblyman’s influence insulate him from trouble?

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