An Anne Arundel County councilman used an ethnic slur during a council meeting held Thursday night to appoint a replacement for a vacant seat on the body.
Councilman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd, a Broadneck Republican, referred to "gooks" from his seat on the dais when speaking about his time serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
While questioning a candidate for the vacant seat on the council, Ladd remarked on their similar Army service. When another councilman teased Ladd, 71, about which war he may have served during, Ladd said: "I was in the Vietnam War. It wasn't the Revolutionary War. I was there chasing down the gooks."
The comment elicited gasps throughout the council chambers, where dozens were assembled to watch the candidate interview process.
Ladd, who piloted helicopters on combat missions in Vietnam, briefly attempted to explain his use of the term as the "technical term for North Koreans," but quickly moved on.
After becoming aware that a reporter had sought comment from several council members, Ladd gave an apology, which was met with applause from spectators.
"I need to apologize," said Ladd. "It was a term that I used in my past. If I offended anybody, I take the hit on that."
During a break in the meeting, Ladd explained his comments further, saying, "It's a term of art that is used for opponents. If you want to say it's an ethnic slur, then I'm OK with that. I understand this and that's why I apologized."
Several of his council colleagues declined to comment. Councilman John J. Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, dismissed the incident.
"Who cares?" said Grasso. "It's old war talk."
The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as "A non-white or non-American person, specifically Asian" and advises, "usually offensive." Historically, the term was used by American soldiers serving in Asian countries.
In 2000, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war for five years during the Vietnam War, called his captors "gooks." According to The New York Times, he apologized.