New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney apologized Monday for repeating a racial slur when she quoted another person during an interview.
Calling the N-word disgusting, the Democrat said she was relaying a story as it was told to her.
"I apologize for having repeated a word I find disgusting," Maloney said in a written statement.
"It's no excuse, but I was so caught up in relaying the story exactly as it was told to me that, in doing so, I repeated a word that should never be repeated," Newsday reports.
According to Ms. Maloney, the caller, a man from Puerto Rico, said that he was offended by Ms. Gillibrand’s support of English-only policies in education and that Ms. Gillibrand’s discussion of the issue during one appearance was like using the racial slur against a Puerto Rican, The New York Times reports.
"I got a call from someone from Puerto Rico, said [Gillibrand] went to Puerto Rico and came out for English-only [education]. And he said, 'It was like saying n----- to a Puerto Rican,'" she is quoted as saying, using the full racial slur.
In a statement, the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is supporting Gillibrand, lambasted Maloney, saying her use of the word was "alarming."
"No public official, even in quoting someone else, should loosely use such an offensive term and should certainly challenge someone using the term to him or her," Sharpton said.
Sharpton said he takes Maloney's apology at face value, but he said the incident could hurt her in the African-American community.
"I personally don't think she's a racist, but I think it is disturbing," he said. "Does she [regularly] allow this kind of word in conversation?"
Gillibrand spokesman Matt Canter said the senator believes "any use of the word is offensive," The New York Daily News reports.