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Kelly Issues Apology for Remark About the Japanese : Sister cities: The Huntington Beach councilman says that his comment, 'while inopportune and flippant,' was 'not meant to be disrespectful.'

January 23, 1991|BILL BILLITER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Councilman Jack Kelly, who caused a furor two weeks ago when he inadvertently made a private comment about the Japanese into a live microphone during a council meeting, apologized Tuesday night, saying no bigotry or prejudice was intended.

"If I have offended people who have claimed such offense, I would certainly hope that you would attribute it to carelessness and thoughtlessness rather than to any moment of prejudice or bigotry. . ," Kelly told fellow council members in a brief statement. "I would hope you would accept my apologies."

At the Jan. 7 council meeting, a delegation from Huntington Beach sister city Anjo, Japan, presented the city a $93,000 check to help it rebuild its pier. The Japanese officials bowed several times as they made their presentation.

Kelly, a former TV and film actor, turned to Councilman Earle Robitaille and said, "How could guys who bow that much ever bomb the (Pearl) harbor?"

The remark was picked up by a microphone and carried by cable TV, but it could not be heard in the council chamber.

Officials of the Huntington Beach Sister City Assn. later denounced Kelly's remark and said it undermined efforts for international goodwill.

Kelly told the council and members of the audience Tuesday night that his remark was "flippant" but not intended to insult the Japanese.

"One thing that I cannot express more appreciatively is affection for the citizens of Anjo with their exceptional generosity," he said. "They made an incredible gift to help us build our new pier."

He added that his comment, "while inopportune and flippant, was not meant to be disrespectful to our guests. As a matter of fact, it was nothing more, in my mind, than an expression of ironic humor."

Mayor Peter M. Green read a brief statement in which he defended Kelly, saying he has known the councilman six years and that "he is absolutely not capable of uttering a deeply felt racial slur."

Steve Eggleston, president of the Huntington Beach Sister City Assn., said after Kelly made his statement Tuesday that the group accepts his apology.

"The joke made by Mr. Kelly was in poor taste, but we do not believe it reflected Mr. Kelly's true sentiments," Eggleston said. "While we regret that the comment was ever said . . , we accept his apology."

Eggleston added that Kelly has promised to speak at a dinner this summer at which the sister city association will greet four students visiting Huntington Beach from Anjo.

Times correspondent John Penner contributed to this report.

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