BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – State Representative Faye Hanohano, a Democrat from Puna who chairs the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs, tearfully apologized on the floor of the House of Representatives on March 1 for racial slurs she made to state exhibition experts from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts earlier that week.
The House Majority press office also issued a written statement on Hanohano’s behalf saying she was sorry if she offended anyone when she told the art specialists as they hung paintings her staff selected that she did not want art produced by “Haoles, Japs or Pakes.” (Caucasians, Japanese and Chinese).
Hanohano promised to rebuild the relationship with the State Foundation for Culture and the Arts. But when it came time to apologize to the very state employees she insulted, Hanohano’s letter was just 16 words:
“I humbly apologize for any comments I made that you may have found to be offensive.”
She didn’t elaborate and she did not apologize for threatening to cut funding to the department for the “Art in Public Places” program, which places about 5,800 pieces of art per year produced by local artists in state owned buildings, including the state capitol.
Hanohano, who is native Hawaiian, wanted native Hawaiian art in her office, but her staff had already selected artwork to match what was displayed in her office without realizing her preference. Hanohano in turn lashed out at the exhibition experts who had worked diligently with her staff to ensure she had the artwork she wanted.
Eva Laird Smith, Director of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, stood up for her employees and asked House Speaker Joe Souki to have Hanohano apologize publicly and in writing.
The House Speaker said he did not condone the offensive language and behavior and asked Hanohano to send a letter of apology to the State Foundation on Culture and Arts Exhibit team specialists. He also extended an apology to the members of the Exhibit team.
Hanohano’s letter to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, received March 5, surprised those who read it because of Hanohano’s brevity and seeming insincerity.
Michael W. Perry, a popular radio personality who co-hosts KSSK Radio’s Perry and Price Morning Show, said he didn’t see Hanohano’s one sentence statement as an apology. He received several dozen calls over the last few weeks from listeners who were offended by Hanohano’s remarks and weren’t satisfied with public statements and actions.
In explaining her actions, Hanohano called herself “an honest and straight speaking woman whom descends from long line of proud leaders and warriors from Puna of Hawaii Island.” And she pledged to “serve my people and the people of the State of Hawaii to the best of my ability, integrity and for the honor of my kupuna (elders).”
But Perry said her apology was more like a “non-apology” and he also noted that although Hanohano is the one who made the racial slurs and threats, she pledged to put her entire office staff through training with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“My office has already reached out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to assist us in obtaining additional training for all of our staff. We are committed to taking immediate steps to ensure that an incident like this never happens again,” Hanohano said.
Perry joked that if he or his co-host Larry Price had said anything like she did on the air they would be working at K-Mart doing announcements for shoppers, and not on the state’s number one morning radio show. Some callers to KSSK have said they were so offended by her racist rant they want Hanohano to resign.