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Mason at Center of Racial Flap

October 13, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ Oy, vey 3/8 Comedian Jackie Mason, who created a flap four years ago by referring to Mayor David Dinkins with a Yiddish word that is considered a racial slur, used the same word again at a police banquet.

And he defiantly declared Wednesday that he’d do it again.

Mason repeatedly used the term ″shvartze″ - the Yiddish word for ″black″ - while accepting a ″Person of the Year″ award Sunday from a police fraternity.

His remarks came only days after actor Ted Danson was criticized for putting on blackface and using the word ″nigger″ at a Friars Club roast of his lover, black actress Whoopi Goldberg.

″I positively don’t apologize,″ said an angry Mason, whose stage act is rife with ethnic humor. ″I’m telling a joke here. I’m a civil rights crusader all my life. The color of a person’s skin means as much to me as the color of their jacket.″

The 2,500-member Shomrim Society, the Jewish police fraternity that presented the award, issued a statement Wednesday apologizing to anyone offended by Mason’s act, but defending Mason.

″Jackie Mason is a Jewish comedian known for a particular style of humor,″ the statement said. ″He has a strong civil rights record, and has helped people of all races and religions.″

Society president Sgt. Harvey Hecker said he heard no complaints at the banquet. But he added, ″maybe after what happened with Whoopi Goldberg, it wasn’t good timing.″

Mason was forced to step down as an adviser to Rudolph Giuliani’s 1989 mayoral campaign after he jokingly described Dinkins as ″a fancy shvartze with a mustache.″

He blamed the latest furor on guilt-ridden Jews trying to prove they are ″racial crusaders,″ and on a headline-hungry media.

″The media distorts reality, turns it upside down,″ he said. ″They take a joke, and make it reality. They make comedy into bigotry for headlines.″

Among the 500 people at Sunday’s banquet was Sandra Marsh, a black woman who is the city’s deputy commissioner for equal employment opportunity.

Marsh said she found Mason’s remarks offensive, but noted that he is an ″equal opportunity offender.″

Mason, who recently visited Nelson Mandela in South Africa and donated $30,000 to the African National Congress, said he has never encountered a black who objected to his use of ″shvartze″ in his act.

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