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Michel Apologizes To Ministers For Televised Remarks

November 26, 1988

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel gave a tearful apology to black ministers for racial remarks he made on television and one clergyman says his conciliatory tone was genuine.

″He was very heartfelt in saying he made a mistake,″ said the Rev. Harold Dawson, president of the Southside Pastors Association.

″I don’t think those tears were phony,″ Dawson said. ″I think Congressman Michel will make a sincere effort to do things differently.″

In an interview two weeks ago on the ″USA Today″ television show, Michel reminisced about his days as an amateur singer in Peoria. He imitated the Amos and Andy comedy team and sang a few bars of ″Old Man River,″ saying he still wanted to use the song’s original lyrics which referred to blacks as ″niggers.″

In the interview, Michel, R-Ill., went on to say, ″It’s too bad that ... we can’t do some of the things that were part of our heritage.″

After Friday’s meeting, Michel told reporters that the ministers had given him a list of problems and concerns facing the black community.

″We’re going to turn a negative into a positive for the community,″ he said.

Michel first apologized for his remarks shortly after the show aired.

″When I saw the tape I felt, oh brother, why did I do that?″ he said. ″My remarks were completely wrong and insensitive.″

Friday’s two-hour meeting was open only to the ministers, Michel, his aide Ray Lahood, and Michel’s son, Scott.

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