Democratic Lawmaker Won't Be Disciplined for Racist Slur in Email, Won't Seek Re-Election

A Democratic representative will not face disciplinary action after he used a racist and sexist slur to reference sex workers in an email, the Associated Press reported. Rep. Gerald Brady of Delaware announced in July after receiving public backlash that he could not "in good conscience" seek re-election at the end of his current term since he "betrayed" his voters' faith.

The Democrat-led House Ethics Committee held a closed-door meeting Friday on Brady's comments and announced their decision Monday in a statement.

"While it is manifestly the business of this committee to ensure the decorum of House proceedings and to punish unlawful and unethical conduct that reflects upon the integrity of the House, there is no precedent for policing the lawful expression of opinions or a member's choice of words in what he believed to be correspondence with a private citizen," said Delaware House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, the committee chair.

Longhurst added in the statement that although Brady's comments "should never be tolerated," the committee could not punish "the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable," citing an opinion written by former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in the landmark 1989 Texas vs. Johnson case.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Stop Asian Hate Demonstration
A House committee decided not to take disciplinary action against a lawmakers who used a sexist and racist slur for Chinese women in an email. Demonstrators wearing face masks and holding signs take part in a rally "Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power" to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence, at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, California, on March 13, 2021. Ringo Chiu/AFP via Getty Images

The statement from Longhurst was accompanied by a memorandum in which attorneys for the Democratic and Republican caucuses noted that there was no precedent for disciplining a lawmaker for speech outside of legislative proceedings, and that the prospect of such disciplinary action raises First Amendment concerns.

"Launching an ethics investigation every time a legislator expresses an opinion or chooses language that another legislator or member of the public finds offensive, (sic) could be a slippery slope," the attorneys wrote.

Longhurst nevertheless said Brady's remarks "should never be tolerated."

Brady, who is executive director of the Delaware AFL-CIO, made the comments in a June 27 email he inadvertently sent to an advocate for decriminalizing prostitution. Thinking he was forwarding an email from the advocate to another person from whom he was seeking input, Brady instead mistakenly hit "reply" and sent his comments to the advocate.

"Is the dude basically saying, if we provide free (oral sex) for Uncle Pervie there will be few rapes and few (a slur for Chinese women) will be shipped in CONEX containers to the Port of Wilmington??" Brady wrote from his official government email address.

Brady's decision not to seek re-election was not sufficient for some critics.

Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, a Newark Democrat, filed a complaint against Brady with the Ethics Committee, alleging that he had engaged in "conduct which the House determines (i) brings the House into disrepute or (ii) reflects adversely on the member's fitness to hold legislative office."

"If we do not hold our own members accountable for their actions, we cannot claim to have values that differ from theirs," wrote Wilson-Anton, who asserted that "hateful language is violent language."

"If Delawareans cannot trust us to hold our own accountable they cannot trust us to govern in their best interests," she added.

Brady said in a prepared statement that the committee's decision does not mean that his words weren't wrong.

"I have spent the past several weeks contacting colleagues, constituents, community members and members of the Asian American community to offer my apologies and to open a dialogue with them," he said. "I have participated in a sensitivity training course as prescribed, and I have remained in contact with the instructor to incorporate the lessons I have learned going forward."

Stop Asian Hate Protest
A Democratic lawmaker announced his resignation in July after he sent an email using a sexist and racist slur against Chinese women. People march during a Stop Asian Hate rally in downtown Detroit, Michigan on March 27,2021, as part of a nation wide protest in solidarity against hate crimes directed towards Asian Americans in the wake of the Atlanta, Georgia spa shootings that left eight dead. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images