An Oklahoma lawmaker who was advocating that the state drop a 70-year-old law protecting small businesses from large retails stores apologized on Wednesday after he used the slur “Jew me down” during a debate on the state House floor.
Republican state Rep. Dennis Johnson on Wednesday insisted to his colleagues that Senate Bill 550, which gives an advantage to large stores by repealing a ban on “loss-leader” selling, would not hurt small businesses because they offered better customer service.
“What you do, you find out what you do better than somebody else and that’s what you market, that’s what you advertise, that’s what you do as a small business and then you get the reward of success,” he explained. “People come back to you, they like what you do, they like the service they get. And they don’t ask me — they might try to Jew me down on a price, that’s fine. You know what? That’s free market as well.”
After a few more moments of rambling about how small businesses could buy merchandise at lower prices than large retailers, someone on the House floor advised Johnson that he had made an offensive comment.
“Did I?” he asked.
“I apologize to the Jews,” Johnson added, smiling in response to laughter that could be heard off camera. “They’re good small businessmen as well.”
“Jew down” is a derogatory slang term that refers to the act of haggling for a lower price.
“The term is offensive because it plays on the stereotype that Jewish people are tightwads who are so good at haggling they can easily talk someone into selling something for less than the asking price,” according to About.com.
“It just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain and it was not something that was intentional,” Johnson explained later. “I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone and I apologize for the folks I did offend. It is a comment that should never be made. I will never do it again.”
Watch the video below, recorded April 17, 2013.