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    July 10, 2007

    Bill Richardson's 'maricón moment'

    Posted by: Chris

    Richardsononimus I posted today on Gay News Watch a story I reported with Karen Ocamb of IN LA Magazine about Bill Richardson's use of the anti-gay slur "maricón" in an appearance on, of all places, the Don Imus show. Details are here, but the gist is that on a March 29, 2006, broadcast,  Imus joked with the New Mexico governor that one of the shock jock's staffer didn't believe Richardson is really Latino.

    IMUS: “You can just answer this yes or no and this will answer that question. Would you agree that Bernard is a maricón?”

    RICHARDSON “Yo creo que Bernardo, sí — es un maricón si él piensa que yo no soy hispano. [General laughter] Was that good enough or what? [General laughter]”

    IMUS: “That’s good enough for me.”

    Most of the gay Latinos interviewed for our story, and every gay Latino I've talked to about the subject, agrees that "maricón" means "faggot" in Spanish.  So, translated into English, Richardson had replied, "I believe that Bernard, yes — he's a faggot if he thinks that I am not Hispanic."

    Christopherhubble The March 2006 appearance is resurfacing now because of one reader of this blog. Christopher Hubble, a Denver, Colo.-based book publisher and blogger, e-mailed me after I wrote very approvingly of Bill Richardson's gay right record when he announced for president earlier this year.

    Like several of the Richardson supporters quoted in the story, I think the Imus appearance raises legitimate questions about Richardson's judgment. He was clearly baited by Imus, but he replied using the same word without missing a beat. He was so anxious to reply he talked over the host. A clip of the appearance is available here.

    Even more telling for me, however, is Richardson's handling of the issue since.  He is said to have apologized privately soon after the broadcast to Equality New Mexico, his state's gay rights group, as if he could say he was sorry by proxy to all gay people who heard the broadcast by making one private phone call. In that call, Richardson claimed that in the Spanish he grew up speaking, "maricón" only meant "effeminate." So he was calling the Imus staffer a "sissy," not a "fag." Does that feel much better to anyone?

    Billrichardsonocambblog A year later, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, Richardson's statement in response to the incident is even more of a non-apology apology. This time around, he claims the word means "simply 'gay,' not positive or negative.

    "It has been brought to my attention that the word also has a hurtful or derogatory connotation, which was never my intent," said Richardson. "If I offended anybody, I’m sorry."

    We've all known since childhood that "I'm sorry you're upset" isn't a real apology, taking true responsibility. We've lived through six years of a president who never admits he's wrong; the bar should be set high for candidates willing to say when they've messed up — not when they've upset you.

    At a more fundamental level, Richardson's wavering explanations about "maricón" strain credulity. If "maricón" means "simply gay, not positive or negative," then why in the world would Don Imus suggest his staffer was "simply gay, not positive or negative" for thinking Richardson isn't truly Latino? Why would Richardson agree?

    It's also hard to believe Richardson has "since learned" that "maricón" is offensive. Spanish-language dictionaries refer to it as a derogatory epithet, and I've yet to talk to a gay Latino who disagreed or had heard otherwise.

    The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has for years taken Spanish-language media to task for using "maricón." In one press release, GLAAD referred to "maricón" as a "derogatory slur" that is "vulgar, defamatory and unacceptable."

    Luisafernanda Language can be a tricky thing, as Telemundo host Luisa Fernanda found out recently when she was fired for using "cherna," the Spanish word for grouper on the air. Fernanda is Mexican and very gay-friendly, and says she had no idea that for Cubans, "cherna" is also an anti-gay epithet.

    Respected gay Latino bloggers like Andrés Duque at Blabbeando and Alex from Stuck on the Palmetto and have largely accepted Fernanda's explanation, but it still cost her the job. Is our standard for president lower than that for a Telemundo chat show?

    Most disappointing for me personally was Richardson's effort to change the subject, suggesting that news of his Imus appearance is surfacing now through some effort by rivals to quash his "momentum." No one associated with the story has been anything but helpful to Richardson's campaign in the gay community. In addition to my previous praise, which has been linked to pro-Richardson sites, my co-author Karen Ocamb gave Richardson an extended interview for IN LA Magazine. In fact, the only dirty politics here is the effort by the Richardson camp to smear his rivals for being behind a story they had nothing to do with.

    News of Richardson's "maricón" moment — while nothing so awful as George Allen's "macaco" moment in the 2006 campaign — should depress gay voters. Richardson is right when he says his record on gay rights is better than any other serious candidate, mostly because he can point to actual accomplishments rather than simply rhetoric.

    But a candidate seeking our support and our votes owes us more than half-apologies and wavering explanations, much less unfounded, Rove-like efforts to shoot the messenger.

    Click here for a complete gay news summary on the presidential race, compiled by Gay News Watch.

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    Comments

    1. Constantino on Jul 10, 2007 4:32:59 PM:

      I see your point, and maybe you're right, but I just watched the video and to be honest... I wasn't all that offended.

      The use of "maricón" in this context is sort of... well... just dumb, and odd. But I wouldn't say it's necessarily offensive.

      Then again, as you said, the country of origin is relevant here. In Guatemala, where I grew up, "maricón" means "coward," not "faggot," (it does not really have a "sexual orientation" sense, although that is certainly its origin) and it's not a particularly harsh word.

    1. Mad Professah on Jul 10, 2007 8:29:22 PM:

      To me there's no question that maricon means faggot, and is NOT a polite term for "male homosexual" in EVERY dialect of Spanish spoken in this country. For Richardson to say so reflects badly on him.

      It's possible in Guatemala maricon may just mean coward, but do you really think that's what it means in New Mexico?

      The Fernanda story is very different. I don't think she shold have been fired.

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 11, 2007 8:24:11 PM:

      Suppose the entire conversation had been held in English, instead of Spanish.

      Would Richardson's comments about "faggots" be somehow "better" or "more acceptable" than the despicable Ann Coulter's comments?

    1. Alex on Jul 17, 2007 12:23:25 AM:

      Hey, saw your link to our blog (much appreciated). Richardson definitely put his foot in his mouth. In his pseudo defense, among Mexican Americans context is very important (for example "cabrón" can be either an endearing term among friends or a major insult). "Maricón" can also mean somebody low and dirty (the etymology is still homophobic, of course). So, although no excuse, in context I don't think Richardson was making a homophobic slur.

      BTW, I'm not gay (although I've been accused often in the blog, for standing up for gay rights).

    1. Alex on Jul 17, 2007 12:23:39 AM:

      Hey, saw your link to our blog (much appreciated). Richardson definitely put his foot in his mouth. In his pseudo defense, among Mexican Americans context is very important (for example "cabrón" can be either an endearing term among friends or a major insult). "Maricón" can also mean somebody low and dirty (the etymology is still homophobic, of course). So, although no excuse, in context I don't think Richardson was making a homophobic slur.

      BTW, I'm not gay (although I've been accused often in the blog, for standing up for gay rights).

    1. Tom on Jul 21, 2007 2:10:41 AM:

      Just so you guys know, the term "maricon" is usually used to describe someone that is weak or a jerk and not neccessarily a homosexual in Mexico. Although this wasn't the best choice of a word to call someone, I do not believe that this was his intended meaning. There are other derogatory words that are used to call someone gay but I will not post them as I do not condone them.

    1. David on Jul 26, 2007 7:01:34 PM:

      I understand the desire to hold our elected officials to a higher standard, but I have to take issue with your point here in this posting. While Governor Richardson's choice of words may not have been the best, I am a subscriber to the belief that actions speak much louder than words. The Governor has been a consistent supporter of GLBTs in his State. He lives the message. The gay people I know that know the Governor speak so highly of his true belief that we are all equal and entitled to the same rights and liberties as heteros. He is committed to that and doesn't have any issues saying so. I would much rather support a candidate that I know will fight for us because he has a proven record of already doing so, then an unknown commodity of rhetoric not backed by action. Just my 2 cents. I'm not Latino so can't speak to it directly. But I am gay and believe that as a community we need to support those political candidates that have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring our equal treatment under the law.

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    1. Andrew on Dec 26, 2011 10:41:24 AM:

      "Maricón" can also mean somebody low and dirty (the etymology is still homophobic, of course). So, although no excuse, in context I don't think Richardson was making a homophobic slur. where to buy steroids

    1. Bradly56 on Dec 26, 2011 10:43:35 AM:

      To me there's no question that maricon means faggot, and is NOT a polite term for "male homosexual" in EVERY dialect of Spanish spoken in this country. For Richardson to say so reflects badly on him. It's possible in Guatemala maricon may just mean coward, but do you really think that's what it means in New Mexico? steroids for sale

    1. Franky on Dec 26, 2011 10:44:42 AM:

      Although this wasn't the best choice of a word to call someone, I do not believe that this was his intended meaning. There are other derogatory words that are used to call someone gay but I will not post them as I do not condone them. steroids

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