The mayor of tiny Franklin, Va., has issued a public apology for citing a Washington Post reporter's religion in his complaints about an article published on Christmas day.

Mayor James P. Councill III, who has complained that Post reporter Steven Ginsberg misquoted him in the article, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch this week: "He's Jewish. He doesn't care about Christmas, and he ruined a lot of Christmases in Franklin."

Ginsberg's article, about race relations in Franklin, included a remark attributed to Councill that many considered offensive.

The comment about Ginsberg's religion prompted a protest this week from the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League, which wrote Councill that "your attempt to distance yourself from racially insensitive remarks by appealing to anti-Semitism and religious divisiveness is blatantly insensitive and offensive."

In a statement late Tuesday, Councill said he made the comment "out of frustration from the brow-beating the press was giving me and Franklin. . . . I truly regret offending any within the Jewish community and apologize to all who may have been offended."

A day earlier, Councill apologized to residents for the pain caused by the Post article, which reported that racial divisions had resurfaced in Franklin after a devastating flood caused by Hurricane Floyd.

But Councill maintained that he didn't make a remark attributed to him in the Post article: "It's not that we [whites] don't like to live next to the blacks, it's just that people don't like to see the junk in the yards."

Post editors say the quotes attributed to Councill were accurate.

Councill did not dispute making the comment about Ginsberg's faith to a Times-Dispatch reporter. Brittanie Zelkind Werbel, associate director of the ADL's Washington office, said yesterday that she had spoken to Councill by telephone and accepted his apology, recommending that the mayor convene a forum on race relations.