Richardson says remark meant playfully

SPARKS, Nev. (AP) -- Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson says his use of a Spanish word was meant to be playful. But he's apologizing to anyone who was offended.

Richardson, a Hispanic and the governor of New Mexico, was a guest on Don Imus' syndicated radio program in March 2006. Imus jokingly said one of his staffers suggested Richardson was "not really Hispanic."

Richardson replied in Spanish that if the staffer believed that, then he was a "maricon."

Critics contend that's an anti-homosexual slur, but Richardson says it simply means "gay, not positive or negative." He tells the AP it was a "playful exchange" that was "not intended to demean anybody."

With critics revisiting the statement more than a year later, Richardson is questioning the timing, and says he has the strongest record on gay rights among the presidential candidates.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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