Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) on Thursday delivered an approximately five-minute apology on the House floor for saying the word “midget” in a speech, comparing it to the “n-word” and vowing never to use it again.
Johnson said he used the word “out of ignorance and not spite or hatred.”
“Everybody knows what the n-word is,” Johnson said. “The n-word, Mr. Speaker, is used to describe a group of people and the n-word used to be fashionable, or it used to be socially acceptable to use the n-word, but now we don’t say the n-word, we say, we refer to that word as the n-word.”
Johnson then painstakingly laid out precisely which group the “m-word” referred to — though he did slip up once and say the word “midget,” excusing himself after he did so:
“The m-word, it’s also a word that describes a group of people and it at one time has been commonly used as a descriptive term. It was at one time was socially acceptable but to my discovery, just within the last 12 hours or so, I have found that the use of the ‘midget’ – excuse me – the use of the m-word is no longer socially acceptable.
“Now the m-word refers to a group of people, the little people. But when we say little people I’m not talking about the Leona Helmsley little people, I’m not talking about the 47 percent, I’m not talking about the takers instead of the makers as some would describe them. I’m not talking about the middle class, working people, poor people, working poor people, that’s not what is meant by the little people term. It really refers to a medical condition. Dwarfism is the name of that medical condition and sometimes I guess one can even say abnormally small people. Abnormally small people which, to me, I like that term better than dwarfism.”
According to the Washington Post, Johnson used the word in a metaphor about Michigan’s new right-to-work law to describe an unfair matchup: “What happens when you put a giant with a midget in a cage fight?”