updated 4/11/2007 5:46:43 PM ET 2007-04-11T21:46:43

A bid to hang Coretta Scott King’s portrait in the state Capitol died in a legislative committee Wednesday, with the chief supporter comparing the failure to Don Imus’ slur against the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.

The resolution would have urged the Capitol Standards Arts Commission to hang the portrait next to a picture of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but the three-member House Special Rules Committee declined to move the proposal forward Wednesday.

“It’s just like calling Mrs. King a nappy-headed (N-word),” state Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam, told reporters after the hearing.

“It’s another example of blatant disrespect for black women in 2007,” said Abdul-Salaam, a Democrat. “It’s worse than what Don Imus did.”

Imus was suspended from his radio show for two weeks after referring to the Rutgers’ players as “nappy-headed hos” on April 4. The shock jock has apologized, but the public outcry prompted some major sponsors to pull their advertising from his show.

Abdul-Salaam said she will ask Gov. Sonny Perdue to issue an executive order to hang King’s portrait in the Capitol. Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said Abdul-Salaam should direct her request to the commission.

“I’m saddened,” said Abdul-Salaam, who said she also had been stymied in efforts to designate Mrs. King’s birthday as a state holiday.

Some call comments an ‘overreaction’
Rep. Calvin Hill, the committee’s Republican chairman, called Abdul-Salaam’s comments an “overreaction.”

“Mrs. King certainly is a wonderful humanitarian ... but this is not a museum,” he said. “She deserves to be recognized, but perhaps not on the grounds of the Capitol.”

Black leaders distanced themselves from Abdul-Salaam’s comments.

“I think the two are completely different,” said Rep. Al Williams, who heads the House’s black caucus.

“I don’t see the committee’s action as racist. I see it as inaction and shortsighted,” he said. “I use the word racist like I do love — I’m sure when I use it.”

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