Two county Republican Party chairmen have apologized for using a Jewish stereotype about frugality in a newspaper op-ed column.
And S.C. GOP Party chairwoman Karen Floyd, who condemned the use of the stereotype, said Tuesday the two leaders will keep their positions.
"It was an offensive and inappropriate comment that (the party chairmen) have rightly apologized for," Floyd said in a statement Tuesday. "These kinds of stereotypes are absolutely unacceptable."
A Jewish state senator Monday said he was angered by the reference, which characterized Jews as notorious penny-pinchers.
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But by Tuesday Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said he considered the matter over after the party chairmen apologized and both Floyd and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint condemned the remarks.
"I appreciate the fact that they apologized quickly," Lourie said. "As far as I'm concerned, we just need to focus on the critical issues in this state. ... I felt like they were very sincere. As far as I'm concerned, it's time to just move on."
In a Sunday opinion piece published in The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat, Edwin O. Merwin Jr., chairman of the Bamberg County Republican Party, and James S. Ulmer Jr., chairman of the Orangeburg County Republican Party, were writing to defend DeMint's opposition to congressional earmarks.
The men wrote: "There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation's pennies and trying to preserve our country's wealth."
"... The comments were thoughtless and hurtful," DeMint said in a statement Tuesday. "The chairmen have apologized, as they should have."
In an e-mail late Monday, Ulmer said the reference is something he had "... heard many times in my life, truly in admiration for a method of bettering one's lot in life."
The executive director of the Washington-based Republican Jewish Coalition said that shows the chairmen should educate themselves about the history of that stereotype.
They "apparently believed that the image of the Jew as penny-pincher was a praise of Jewish frugality," Matthew Brooks said. "In fact, it dates back to the centuries of anti-Jewish persecution in Europe, when Jews were forbidden to own land or conduct any business other than money-lending, which was closed to Christians by church law. It is an image of a kind and of a time with forcing Jews to wear a badge on their clothing or enclosing them in ghettos, cutting them off from religious, social, and economic freedom."
This marks the second time this year accusations of racism have collided with S.C. politics.
In June, Richland County GOP activist Rusty DePass posted on a social networking site that an escaped zoo gorilla was likely an ancestor of first lady Michelle Obama.
DePass later apologized for the comment.
S.C. Republican Party spokesman Joel Sawyer said the incidents reflect individuals exercising bad judgment. He said the incidents do not mean the GOP is hostile to minorities, citing ongoing diversity efforts and a Coalitions Committee within the party charged with increasing minority participation as proof of the party's goal of increasing its base.
"Our primary outreach is based on our ideas," Sawyer said. "They cross ethnic lines and racial lines. When something like this happens, unfortunately, it distracts from the message."
Like the DePass incident, this GOP gaffe also made national news.
Anti-Defamation League Southeast regional director Bill Nigut said Ulmer and Merwin need to "engage in conversation with the Jewish community to understand why their remarks were so insensitive."
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asked national Republican Party chairman Michael Steele about it Tuesday evening.
"This was unnecessary. This was hurtful. I am glad they apologized," Steele said.