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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Punahou gets Inouye apology for Obama barb

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sen. Barack Obama

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U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye has written a letter of apology to Punahou School for comments he made about U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, a Punahou graduate, before the Hawai'i Democratic caucuses last week.

James Scott, Punahou's president, received the letter late last week and plans to meet personally with the Hawai'i Democrat next week in Washington, D.C., after attending the annual conference of the National Association of Independent Schools in New York.

"I think Jim appreciates the letter of apology and was satisfied with the letter and is looking forward to speaking with the senator in person," said Laurel Bowers Husain, Punahou's director of communications.

Inouye, in an interview with The Advertiser before the caucuses, said: "If you ask the people in Hawai'i what they know about Barack Obama, I think the honest answer is, 'Very little.' He went to school in Hawai'i but he went to Punahou, and that was not a school for the impoverished.

"I don't hold it against anyone who is a Punahou grad. It's a fine school. I would say one of the finest in the United States. But to suggest that Punahou maybe set his life plan in place, I find it very interesting," said Inouye, a 1942 graduate of McKinley High School.

Obama, who was born here, was asked about Inouye's comments in an interview on KITV: "Shame on Danny for trying to pull that stunt. I went to Punahou on a scholarship. I was raised by a single mom and my grandmother."

Several people criticized Inouye's comments in letters to the editor and in posts on The Advertiser's Web site.

"The best thing to do was to put it to rest and to apologize for the choice of words," said Jennifer Goto Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff in Honolulu. "It was really never intended and unfortunately took on a life of its own."

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.