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N.Y. state lawmaker apologizes for blackface costume

By Sonia Kennebeck, CNN
February 26, 2013 -- Updated 1704 GMT (0104 HKT)
Dov Hikind, center, is seen in costume with his wife and son. The photo was obtained from what CNN believes to be his son Yoni's Facebook page.
Dov Hikind, center, is seen in costume with his wife and son. The photo was obtained from what CNN believes to be his son Yoni's Facebook page.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Brooklyn Democrat Dov Hikind dressed in blackface for a Purim party
  • He apologized to "anyone who was offended" but added, "that was not the intention"
  • One of his Assembly colleagues calls the apology "a beginning" but inadequate

New York (CNN) -- A New York state lawmaker said Monday he's sorry if he offended anyone by dressing in blackface for a Purim party, but a colleague says his apology doesn't go far enough.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind wore an Afro wig, an orange jersey and had his face painted brown by a professional makeup artist for a weekend party celebrating the Jewish holiday at his home. He told The New York Times that he was supposed to be "a black basketball player."

The Brooklyn Democrat initially tried to dismiss complaints about his costume as "political correctness to the absurd," but reversed himself by Monday afternoon in the face of mounting criticism.

"Anyone who was offended, I am sorry that they were offended," Hikind told reporters at a news conference. "That was not the intention, and that is really all I can say. I just have to reiterate it was Purim. Purim is when people get dressed up."

But Hikind's fellow Brooklyn Democrat, Assemblyman Karim Camara, said the costume was "callous and repugnant."

"I don't think what he has said so far is sufficient," Camara told CNN. "It is a beginning, but we need to have a dialogue with him." He said the use of blackface "brings back the memories of African-Americans being reduced to buffoonery just to gain access to the entertainment industry."

And Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told CNN that Hikind "didn't take into account the history and context of what this is all about."

"That is the most disturbing part -- what he failed to think," Jacobson said.

Earlier this month, Hikind criticized another public figure for a questionable outfit. During New York Fashion Week, designer John Galliano was photographed in a dress that Hikind said made Galliano look like "one of the Hasidic people I represent." Galliano was convicted of making anti-Semitic comments in a Paris cafe in 2011, a crime under French law.

"There are many Hasidic groups. Not all of them dress in an identical fashion, but there was no doubt in my mind when I looked at the entire picture of what Galliano was wearing that he looked like one of the Hasidic people that I represent," Hikind had told CNN. "In light of his past, it was shocking."

Jacobson said that given those comments, Hikind should have been more aware of how his costume would be perceived.

"Part about standing up for one group is to be more sensitive about other groups, especially as a public official," he said.

CNN's Deborah Doft contributed to this report.

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