Analysis: Environmentalists want an apology for Sen. Colburn’s ‘watermelon’ comment

Environmental advocates insist that they are not comparable to watermelons, contrary to an Eastern Shore senator’s assertion at a recent legislative hearing.

At a delegation meeting on Feb. 15, Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Cambridge, criticized the “river keepers” who push water quality in Maryland’s tributaries and streams. He called them “green on the outside and red or socialist on the inside,” according to a story reported here.

Environmentalist and veterans groups are now demanding an apology.

Colburn voiced his opinion during a discussion about how environmental regulations have slowed a number of projects along the Eastern Shore. This week Colburn said he had not been contacted by representatives from either camp.

“I’ll certainly address any correspondence that they may have, addressing their concerns if and when I receive it,” Colburn said Wednesday. “If I were to ask you for an apology or you were to ask me, I think that in a civil matter, you would do it formally. I guess they put out a press release. But I’ve received nothing from them.”

Assateague Coastal Trust, a group advocating for compliance with environmental laws, published a statement earlier this week. Officials want Colburn to apologize, but are apparently not interested in hearing his apology.

“We don’t care to hear excuses for what he really meant,” said Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips.

She called Colburn’s comparison “inexcusable,” citing a number of veterans serving as river keepers. Phillips went on to call Colburn’s statement “McCarthy-like”

“Since when does anyone [in] this country with an opposing point of view be labeled as a red socialist?” Phillips asked. “I’m sure he got a big laugh when he said that at the meeting and if he did shame on anyone who did laugh at the comment.”

Colburn shrugged off the release. “I just view it as a press release they put out to promote river keepers and water keepers.”

–Nick DiMarco

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

Support Our Work!

We depend on your support. A generous gift in any amount helps us continue to bring you this service.