Oklahoma lawmaker apologizes for linking Native Americans to alcoholism

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 28, 2016 4:24 PM

By Lenzy Krebiel-Burton

TULSA, Okla. (Reuters) - An Oklahoma state legislator has apologized after saying in the legislature last week that Native Americans are pre-disposed to alcohol abuse, officials said on Thursday.

State Representative Todd Russ, a Republican, made the apology in a statement issued by his office this week, his office said on Thursday.

During floor debate last week on a measure to amend Oklahoma's liquor laws, Russ said: "The white man took advantage of the Native American people at the rim of an alcohol bottle.

"We see the effects of that today in society because they are predisposed physically. Scientifically we know the truth that they cannot process that like other people," he said.

Russ, whose western Oklahoma district includes a portion of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes' jurisdictional area, urged members of the legislature's Native American Caucus to vote against the bill, which would allow supermarkets and convenience stores to sell beer and wine.

Instead, he received a rebuke for his comments.

“He may not have intentionally done this, but disparaging Native Americans is an uncalled for, inappropriate comment on the House floor," Representative Dan Kirby, a Republican and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation said during the debate.

In his apology, Russ offered contrition "for the unintended pain I have caused Native Americans by my statement that was based upon outdated information."

(Reporting by Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio)