Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato fired a cheap ethnic insult at Superior Court Judge Lance A. Ito, who is overseeing the O. J. Simpson trial. The New York Republican cruelly mocked Ito's Japanese ancestry by using an exaggerated Japanese accent in criticizing the judge in a radio interview. D'Amato demeaned not just Ito but other Asian Americans as well.
D'Amato expressed regrets later. "If I offended anyone, I'm sorry. I was making fun of the pomposity of the judge and the manner in which he's dragging the trial out."
Yeah, right. D'Amato's ignorance, insensitivity and lack of respect is especially appalling for a U.S. senator.
Responding to a question about whether the trial might bump TV coverage of his Senate Banking Committee hearings on Whitewater, D'Amato said, crudely feigning a Japanese accent: "Judge Ito . . . is making a disgrace of the judicial system. Little Judge Ito. For God's sake . . . get the thing over." The irony is that it is the erudite Judge Ito who speaks the King's English, not the senator from Long Island.
In effect, D'Amato also ridiculed Japanese American colleagues in Congress, including Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Reps. Norman Y. Mineta (D-San Jose), Robert T. Matsui (D-Sacramento) and Patsy T. Mink (D-Hawaii). Mineta angrily asked on Wednesday "what we, as Americans of Japanese ancestry, have to do to be able to prove that we are Americans." Nothing. It is D'Amato, as Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) put it, who must take stock of himself and ask what it means to be American.