Green bugs and a red face Nancy Jacobs: Harford legislator's stab at humor hurts conservatives' 'big tent' pitch.


HERE'S A FABLE: There's an ant and a grasshopper. They run into a golfer named Fuzzy and a Maryland politician named Nancy. "Shouldn't you be bigger?" the ant and the grasshopper ask. "We were," the humans reply. "We shrunk from embarrassment."

It may not be the funniest punch line, but it's less ignorant than recent attempts at humor by Fuzzy Zoeller, the golfer who suggested that Tiger Woods leave his fried chicken at home, vTC and Del. Nancy Jacobs.

She's the Harford County legislator who stuck her foot in her mouth with a joke about "the National Association for the Advancement of Green Bugs," a takeoff on the NAACP that she e-mailed to about 50 people.

Ms. Jacobs' apology after criticism mirrored Mr. Zoeller's and others in similar pickles: I'm sorry if anyone was offended. I'm not a racist.

Her supporters -- especially in that font of sensitivity and humility known as talk radio -- will mount the tired defense that she's another victim of "political correctness."

Nancy Jacobs, a rising star in the right-wing of Maryland Republican politics, is not stupid. If she, like the golfer, could not detect the bigotry, hurtfulness and contempt in her "humor," she has a blind spot as big as all Texas, or perhaps Texaco. Not only didn't she do her personal political ambitions any favors, her gaffe betrays the efforts of the GOP and Christian Coalition to open a "big tent" to minorities. Some of her fellow Republicans were not amused.

This flap isn't about "liberal versus conservative," as Ms. Jacobs contended. It's about dredging up stereotypes and attempting to hide them behind insect imagery.

Ms. Jacobs has a right to free speech, of course. And voters are free to judge her on it, like any public figure -- especially when she is using the taxpayer-supported General Assembly computer system to do her networking.

The irony of Ms. Jacobs' sophomoric fable is that the enterprising ant in the lead role didn't do anything to merit the public and media criticism it got: The same cannot be said for her.

Pub Date: 6/29/97

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