Rep. Hal Rogers (Ed Reinke/AP)

Rep. Hal Rogers raised some eyebrows Wednesday night when he sprinkled a little ethnic humor into a dinner speech. Accepting an honor from the Distilled Spirits Council at a gala dinner at Mount Vernon, the 16-term Kentucky Republican joked about the perpetual debate over how to pronounce his state’s largest city (“some say Lou-ee-ville, some say Lou-iss-ville, some say Lou-uh-ville”), reports our colleague Maura Judkis. The Appropriations Committee chairman went on to describe a dinner with “the Chinese ambassador, who spoke broken English but was trying to impress his staff with his knowledge of the U.S.” (Rogers didn’t specify which ambassador; China has sent three different envoys to D.C. over the past decade.)

The diplomat told his staff that they needed to know how to pronouce the name of the city where the Kentucky Derby is held, said Rogers:“‘It’s not Roo-ee-ville, it’s Roo-uh-ville.’ ”

“A simple and unfortunate attempt at humor that clearly fell flat,” Rogers’s spokesman Michael Higdon told us Thursday. (Though, full disclosure: The room did laugh.) “He apologizes if anyone took offense. No harm was meant whatsoever by the story.”