Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) on Monday apologized for questioning a letter from Daniel Inouye in which the late Hawaii senator stated that he wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to succeed him in the Senate.
“I apologize to the late Sen. Inouye, his wife, Irene, his family, friends, and former staff for the comments I made concerning the letter,” Abercrombie said in a statement, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I regret that my comments were interpreted as hurtful and disrespectful to them. That was certainly not my intent. Sen. Inouye was, without a doubt, one of the finest leaders in Hawaii’s history, and a mentor to me.”
Abercombie maintained, however, that the decision to appoint a replacement to Inouye’s seat was entirely up to the governor.
When Inouye passed away, he wrote a letter to Abercrombie endorsing Hanabusa for his seat. Abercrombie ultimately appointed his Lt. Gov., Brian Schatz, to the seat.
In an interview on Thursday, Abercrombie suggested that “drama” surrounding Inouye’s letter was overplayed.
“I received that letter, ostensibly coming from Sen. Inouye himself, a half an hour before he died in Washington, D.C. Literally,” Abercrombie said. “Whether or not this could be construed as Sen. Inouye’s dying wish — let me put it this way — is problematic.”
The governor said he didn’t question that Inouye did in fact want Hanabusa to succeed him, but said that based on conversations with the late senator, he felt the decision was entirely his.
“I don’t dispute for a second it represented his thinking, but it’s far from being a dying wish, sent from Washington and signed and sealed by Sen. Inouye in Washington,” Abercrombie said.