Press Release:
Senator Arlen Specter Apologizes for His Remarks

Washington DC, Dec. 16 2008 -- During the evening hours of December 15, 2008, Frank Spula, the president of the Polish American Congress, received a phone call from US Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) in regards to the recent "Polish jokes" made by the Senator during his remarks addressed to the Commonwealth Club, a Pennsylvania Republican group that met in New York on Friday, December 12.

After exchanging pleasantries, Senator Specter expressed his regrets and said that he was "out of line" in his remarks and that he "apologizes profusely".

President Spula explained to the Senator the deepest concern voiced in recent days by the members of the Polish American community, as well as by numerous Americans with no Polish heritage, and who considered the remarks equally offensive.

Spula emphasized that the concern cannot be eased by mere words and urged that a written statement of apology and explanation be issued by the Senator's office. The Senator confirmed that the written apology would be issued shortly.

The Polish American community nationwide, more than 10 million strong, as well as Poles in Poland who found out about the incident from the media, felt deeply insulted by the Senator's words.

"It would be equally unthinkable if any elected official made similar remarks in regards to any other group," said Spula. "It really does not matter which group is targeted– all jokes ridiculing people based on their ethnicity, religion or race are unacceptable!"

The following day, December 16th, 2008, Spula received the following letter:

December 16, 2008

Frank J. Spula
President, Polish American Congress
5711 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60646

Dear Mr. Spula:

I apologize for the comments which I made Friday at a Republican State Committee luncheon in New York.

In retrospect, I can see that they were inappropriate and I regret having made them. You may be sure I will never make the same mistake again.

In my 28 years in the United States Senate, I have always valued my strong relationship with the Polish community. I have traveled to Poland on several occasions, most recently in 2007. Following my visit, I returned to the floor of he United States Senate to share with my colleagues that, “the relationship between the Untied States and Poland is strong.” I also recognized Poland’s important contribution to the war on terrorism: “Poland is putting forward a number of troops to assist the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 900 in Iraq and 1,200 in Afghanistan.”

To my knowledge, I am one of the few, if not the only, Senators who has hosted a Polish national on my Washington, D.C. staff who returned to Warsaw to serve his government.

As the son of Russian immigrants, I keenly appreciate that one’s heritage is a matter of intense pride and identity. I look forward to working with the Polish-American community in the years to come.

Sincerely,
Arlen Specter
 
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