WASHINGTON -- Sen. Saxby Chambliss on Thursday formally apologized to the gay community for an Internet slur that came from a staffer in his office declaring that "all [gays] must die."
In a written statement, Chambliss said he had removed the employee behind the remark, which had caused an uproar in the gay community and attracted national attention.
"I am sorry for the hurt this incident has caused," Chambliss said. "Regardless of one's position on issues and policies, such comments are simply unacceptable and not befitting those who work in the U.S. Senate, and I will not tolerate them from my staff."
His office declined to identify who wrote the message.
On Sept. 21, someone posted the offensive comment on a gay issues Web site just as Chambliss and other senators were debating ending the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy regarding homosexuals.
Shortly after the posting was made on the joemygod.blogspot.com site, Web users traced it to an Internet protocol address matching that of Chambliss' office.
Chambliss asked the Senate sergeant at arms -- who serves as an enforcement officer for Senate rules and also manages the Senate's computers -- to investigate.
Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said his office interviewed 25 members of Chambliss' staff and looked at numerous computers before tracing the remark to a computer used by a staffer in Chambliss' Washington office.
Gainer also declined to identify the staffer, other than to say he or she had no prior record of misconduct.
Gainer said his office determined there was no criminal violation or hate crime involved.
"All this is from our perspective is ignorant free speech," he said.
Gainer confirmed that Chambliss had removed the employee, and praised the senator for giving his investigators full access to computers and electronic records.
Sending the offending message, he said, could be classified as misuse of government property.
"There's not a specific rule that says you cannot send an ignorant message -- although there is a rule that says computers are to be used only for government business," Gainer said. "And this was not government business."
In addition to issuing a public apology, Chambliss also called Joe Jervis, author of the joe.my.god blog, to apologize.
"He said, Joe, I don’t know if you’re Republican or Democrat, or liberal or conservative," Jervis said, paraphrasing the senator. "But none of that should matter because what was said on your blog shouldn’t be said to anybody by anybody. And I want to offer my sincerest apologies."
According to Jervis, Chambliss acknowledged criticism that he took too long to fire the staffer behind the remark.
"But this is something that's going to dramatically affect someone’s life, and we had to make sure we got it exactly right," Jervis said the senator told him.
The apologies came a day after members of a group called the Queer Justice League of Atlanta met members of Chambliss' Atlanta office staff and demanded an apology for the remarks.
In a letter presented to staffers at the Atlanta office, members of the group demanded that Chambliss and members of his staff engage in sensitivity and diversity training to try to prevent similar incidents in the future.
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