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Wednesday, December 21, 2005 - Page updated at 07:23 AM

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OHSU board nominee bows out after joke falls flat

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — When asked on a form he was filling out if he had a disability, former Oregon state Sen. Neil Bryant wrote: "white/male."

It was meant as a joke, but the notation was written on his nomination form to serve on the board of Oregon Health & Science University, a position for which Gov. Ted Kulongoski had recommended him.

Bryant has now withdrawn his name from consideration and apologized.

"I sincerely and profoundly apologize for any discomfort I have caused," the Bend lawyer wrote in a recent letter withdrawing his name. "No one is to blame but me."

Earlier this year, Kulongoski nominated the former senator for the OHSU board. He was asked to fill in a three-page form from Kulongoski's office on gender and ethnicity, meant to help the state reach its affirmative action goals. The form also asked the prospective candidate whether he or she has a disability.

The Oregon Senate was expected to approve Bryant's appointment next month.

In his letter, Bryant explained: "I responded white/male...I did this to be humorous. I did not qualify for any affirmative action objectives on the form. I should have simply responded 'no."'

Kulongoski spoke to Bryant on the phone last Thursday, after learning of the wording. "His first question was, 'Neil, what were you thinking?" Bryant said.

Anna Richter Taylor, the governor's spokeswoman, said that after their phone conversation, "both agreed it was in the best interest at this point to withdraw his name."

Bryant withdrew his name even though three Senate Democrats said they would still support his nomination. He said, however, he was concerned that his attempt at humor could ensnare his confirmation.

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On Tuesday, Sen. Jackie Winters, a Salem Republican, expressed surprise. She said Bryant is viewed as a moderate Republican, known for his fairness and balance.

"I'm really speechless because you don't expect that kind of response," said Winters. "Certainly, it's not appropriate. It's not humorous."

Bryant, 57, served in the Oregon Senate from 1993 to 2001, and is now a lobbyist for the Oregon University System.

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