MIAMI – House Rep. Henry Bonilla, a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (search), has taken back his demand that Rep. Corrine Brown (search) resign her seat in Congress for remarks she made accusing the Bush administration of racism in its Haiti policy.
But even after Bonilla accepted Brown's apology, he said the fact that her comments raised few hackles demonstrates a double standard among Democratic Party members.
"If a Republican had made such derogatory, insulting and discriminatory remarks there would be a firestorm of outrage. The current silence is deafening," Bonilla, R-Texas, said. "If we truly advocate zero tolerance for racism, then we must insist the statement be addressed."
Brown, D-Fla., issued an apology on Thursday for remarks she made a day earlier when she said Hispanics and whites "all look alike to me."
Brown made the statement during a Wednesday briefing on Haiti with Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega (search), a Mexican-American, and the Florida congressional delegation. During the meeting, attended by about 30 people, Brown sat across the table from Noriega and launched an attack on President Bush's policy on Haiti (search).
She said Republican leaders were "racist" in their policies toward the Caribbean nation, which is almost entirely black, and called the president's representatives "a bunch of white men."
"I sincerely did not mean to offend Secretary Noriega or anyone in the room. Rather, my comments, as they relate to 'white men,' were aimed at the policies of the Bush administration as they pertain to Haiti, which I do consider to be racist," Brown said in a statement on Thursday.
Brown added that she was offended that the meeting on the crisis in Haiti, led by administration officials, "turned into a diatribe rebuking the Haitian government and the Haitian people. I was personally insulted by the anti-Haiti sentiment brought to the table by the State Department and by Republican members of Congress in attendance," she said.
Brown also wrote a letter to Noriega, in which she apologized again "if what I said was construed as a personal affront."
"The State Department delegation that came to meet with us did not include any females or people of color. Given the racial makeup of the people of Haiti, who are 95 percent of African descent, I felt the delegation and the delegation's position were callous and out of touch with the needs (cultural and otherwise) of the Haitian people," she wrote.
After the dressing down, which sent a hush over the hour-long meeting, Noriega responded that he would relay her comments to Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search), both high-level African-American members of the Bush administration. Rice is also female.
Participants in the meeting said Noriega later told Brown: "As a Mexican-American, I deeply resent being called a racist and branded a white man."
Noriega also pointed to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (search), a Republican member of the delegation who was born in Cuba, and asked whether he appeared to be a white man. Diaz-Balart's brother, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (search), is also a congressional member from the state.
Brown's response, according to witnesses, was: "You all look alike to me."
U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (search), a Florida Republican who organized the meeting, called the comments "disappointing."
"To sit there and browbeat this man who is a Mexican-American and call him names, it was inappropriate," Foley said.
On Friday, Florida Sen. Bob Graham refused to comment on Brown's remarks, saying he didn't know enough about them. But Graham did reject Brown's description of U.S. Haiti policy.
"I do not believe the administration's policies are racist. I think they are without vision," he said.
As Brown criticized the political response to Haiti, which she said amounted to the detention of Haitian migrants fleeing their country and the freezing of millions of dollars in aid over flawed 2000 legislative elections in the impoverished nation, others said Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (search) had created the crisis on his own and should step down.
"Haitians need true, decent, democratic leadership elected fairly and freely by the people. Not surprisingly, they have finally said enough is enough," said House Intelligence Committee chairman Porter Goss, R-Fla.
In an apparent switch in the U.S. stance on Aristide, Powell said late Thursday that the Haitian president should "make a careful examination of how best to serve the Haitian people" and should consider "whether or not he'll continue this presidency."
Powell said that the United States has not yet decided what assistance it might provide to an international force that would support a "transitional government or a political settlement."
It is the first time the secretary has mentioned publicly any alternative to Aristide's settling the issue politically with his opposition. President Bush said on Friday that he agreed with Powell's comments.
"We're interested in achieving a political settlement," he said, adding that the United States is engaged in planning with other nations for a multinational force to help insure stability and deliver aid, once a political settlement is reached.
In a statement Wednesday, Brown tried to draw a parallel between the administration's response to Haiti and the 2000 election in Florida.
"It simply mystifies me how President Bush, a president who was selected by the Supreme Court under more than questionable circumstances — in my district alone 27,000 votes were thrown out — is telling another country that their elections were not fair and that they are therefore undeserving of aid or international recognition," Brown said.
Aside from the Florida delegation, several other Congress members and officials attended Wednesday's meeting with Noriega. U.S. Reps. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; John Maisto, U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States (search), and Adolfo Franco, an assistant administrator with the U.S. Agency for International Development (search), all were in attendance.
Fox News' Teri Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.