A longtime governor's aide apologized to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (search) for spreading "reckless, mean-spirited" rumors on the Internet about his marriage.

Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich (search) asked the head of his legal staff to investigate the role former aide Joseph Steffen (search) played in spreading the rumors and whether his Internet postings were done with state equipment on state time.

On Tuesday, O'Malley, 42, had accused the Republican governor's administration of spreading a rumor that he had had a child with another woman. The charge prompted Ehrlich to force out Steffen, who had discussed the rumor on a popular conservative Web site.

In an e-mail to O'Malley, Steffen said he was "truly sorry, ashamed and remorseful and I ask that you and your family please find it in your hearts to forgive me.

"I have no excuse for joining web [or other] conversations that are reckless, mean-spirited and personally damaging in nature," said the e-mail, which Steffen provided to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Mayoral spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said O'Malley received an e-mail "allegedly from Steffen." The mayor had no further comment, Guillory said.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Thursday that the governor also should apologize for the actions of someone who was on his staff when he was in Congress and then came with him to state government.

"It happened on his watch. If he didn't know, he should have known," Miller said. "If he would apologize, maybe we could put an end to this."

Democrats will not rush into an investigation but want to see what steps Ehrlich takes, Miller said.

Ehrlich said Wednesday he would not tolerate what Steffen did, but also would not apologize personally for Steffen's actions.

O'Malley and his wife, Catherine, held a news conference Wednesday to denounce the rumors, with O'Malley describing them as "despicable lies."