DOVER, Delaware (WPVI) -- After months of controversy, the Delaware House Ethics Committee unanimously decided not to issue further punishment against state Rep. Gerald Brady for offensive comments he made against Asian women.
The committee met late last week after state Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton filed a complaint regarding Brady's actions. The committee issued a statement Monday afternoon on its decision.
The statement says in part:
"The Committee has unanimously determined that while the members' choice of words was reprehensible, and without condoning his expression, this incident does not rise to the level of a violation of the Rules of Legislative Conduct and no further action will be taken by this Committee".
It's not the decision that Delaware Asian American Voice Founder Yushu Fu wanted, but it is what she half-expected after months of getting little to no response from lawmakers.
"They sent a clear message to our community. It's we don't matter," said Fu, who organized a fundraising campaign to purchase a billboard calling for Brady to resign.
Brady, a Democrat, made racist and sexist comments against Asian women linking them to the sex industry in an email sent in June. He thought he was sending the email with the offensive comments to a friend, instead, he accidentally sent the email to a person who was an advocate for legislation to protect sex workers.
After the email was reported, Brady was ordered to undergo sensitivity training, with Democratic leaders saying that was the largest action they could take against him at the time.
That was before Wilson-Anton filed her complaint. In the committee's decision not to take further action, the statement issued said that part of the reasoning for not taking further action was the fact that Brady thought he was in communication with a private citizen.
"There is no precedent for policing the lawful expression of opinions or a member's choice of words in what he believed to be correspondence with a private citizen," said the statement. "Determining which ideas and manners of expression are beyond the pale is first and foremost the province of voters. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects freedom of speech and it would run contrary to those principles to punish "the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
One committee member explained to Action News that a large part of examining cases like this one hinges on determining whether the actions were illegal. That's not good enough to constituents like Fu, who is disappointed in the committee's decision.
"We have to realize five powerful white people had a closed-door meeting, they didn't give anybody any information," she said. "When you question them, they say 'We just follow the rules.' But they are the people making the rules. So you see the problem here?"
Fu also takes issue with the fact that Brady sent the email from his official legislative email address.
"The Delaware.gov email is a resource funded by taxpayer dollars. And he used this resource to promote racism and sexism," she said.
After the committee's decision, Brady issued a statement saying, in part:
"While the Ethics Committee concluded that this situation didn't constitute a violation, it does not mean that my words weren't wrong. Free speech is crucial to democracy, but so is the duty to use it wisely, and to take responsibility when you do not."
"I have spent the past several weeks contacting colleagues, constituents, community members and members of the Asian American community to offer my apologies and to open a dialogue with them. I have participated in a sensitivity training course as prescribed, and I have remained in contact with the instructor to incorporate the lessons I have learned going forward.
Brady has already announced that he will not seek re-election once his term is over. The head of the AFL CIO has also called on him to resign from his position as Executive Director of the Delaware Chapter.