Houston councilman apologizes for remarks 4-5-07

By JOE STINEBAKER
HOUSTON, Texas (AP) - A Houston city councilman and conservative talk radio host has apologized for saying taxpayers were paying large amounts of welfare to American Indians who were ``whining'' about having been ``whipped in a war.''

Michael Berry said Thursday that he posted the apology on his station's Web site the night before ``not because I offended people, but because I was wrong.''

``My facts were wrong, and the basis of my facts was wrong,'' he said.

Berry said on his KPRC-AM talk show March 27 that Indians don't deserve the ``incredible'' amount of federal assistance they receive.

``We conquered them,'' he said. ``That's history.''

Berry made the remarks while speaking against a proposal in the Texas Legislature for the state to apologize for slavery.

``If you're against apologizing for slavery, then you've got to be against giving welfare to the American Indians because of the fact that 200 years ago they were whipped in a war,'' he said.

``Why don't we go hand the Germans a few million dollars, and the Italians, and the Japanese? OK, so we did rebuild their country. We don't continue to give them aid because they sit around whining about a war from 200 years ago. Are you kidding me? Seriously.''

Berry said Thursday that among the ``several hundred'' e-mails he had received about his remarks were several that pointed out ``intellectually and politely'' that American Indians did not receive a disproportionate share of federal assistance and were not singled out for scholarships and other federal programs.

``I've done my homework and learned that I was wrong,'' he said. ``I'm big enough to admit when my facts are wrong.''

Jacquelyn Battise, a member of the Coushatta and Alabama tribes and host of a Houston radio show on Indian culture, said Berry's apology ``looks real, and it has the feel that he put a lot of real thought into it,'' but that she was surprised by it.

``It sure is quite a turnabout, an overnight transformation,'' she said.

``The way he spoke about it on his radio show, he sure was very passionate and very strong in his statements,'' Battise said. ``I guess I get tired of getting hit on the head by somebody and then they say 'I'm sorry' and the apology is supposed to make everything OK.''

Berry is a three-term councilman and Houston's mayor pro-tem, meaning that he fills in for certain duties when Mayor Bill White isn't available.

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