Two GOP lawmakers in Kentucky have apologized after using an anti-Semitic phrase during a discussion of a state lease agreement on Tuesday.
The state’s Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee was discussing leasing agreements when Republican state Rep. Walker Thomas could be heard on a hot mic laughing while asking if the state could “Jew them down on the price,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The committee chair, Republican state Sen. Rick Girdler, repeated Thomas’ words.
“We’ve got a representative up here [asking] if you could Jew them down a little bit on the price,” Girdler said before he apparently recognized that the language was offensive.
“That ain’t the right word to use,” he corrected himself. “‘Drop them down,’ I guess.”
The phrase “Jew down” is an anti-Semitic expression that “plays into the trope of Jews as greedy money handlers who are unwilling to part with their earnings,” according to the American Jewish Committee.
Thomas apologized for using the term but claimed he didn’t completely realize its historical use as hate speech.
“I sincerely regret using that term and apologize to anyone harmed by my use of it. This is not who I am, nor is it what my faith leads me to be,” Thomas said, according to the Herald-Leader. “It is a phrase I have heard throughout my life, but this experience has provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the impact that words have and the fact that we must be smarter today than we were yesterday.“
Girdler also apologized, saying he was “deeply sorry if I offended anyone,” the paper said. “I have no hate or malice in my heart for anyone in the Jewish community.”
Some Twitter users were more accepting of the apologies than others.
"Jew them down" is an inexcusably ugly expression, and you have to be pretty obtuse not to know that in 2022. Then again, Jews are just 0.3% of #Kentucky's population and many people have never met one. This sounds to me like ignorance, not hatred.https://t.co/sNlvVCJrth
— Jeff Jacoby (@Jeff_Jacoby) February 23, 2022
"If I offended anyone"? IF? Are you not sure if the phrase "Jew them down" is offensive?
The GOP is a bottomless pit of hatred. https://t.co/EGDfRp6VAc
— Bill Prady (Taylor's Version) (@billprady) February 23, 2022
2 KY Republican legislators want a lower price on a state lease agreement, so they publicly share they hope to "Jew them down." Your 21st Century Kentucky Republican Party, everyone
— Cliff Schecter (@cliffschecter) February 23, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.