Niggardly, of course, has nothing to do with a crude racial epithet. It means miserly or mean.
Mr Howard says he is a victim of a sophisticated vocabulary. His opponents say that he used the "n" word and is trying to get away with it. The mayor of Washington, Anthony Williams, accepted his resignation but has launched an inquiry.
Mr Williams was elected as a moderate black mayor last year and has been attacked for not being "black enough".
Mr Williams said, rather cautiously, that in his view Mr Howard had been "caught smoking in a refinery". But Mr Howard is gay, one of the first officials in high office to be publicly so. Now the gay community (black and white) is accusing Mr Williams of homophobia.Reuse content