"We used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes"
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) probably didn't help the GOP's push to woo Latino voters, after using a racial slur during a radio interview with KRBD in Alaska last week. Young's comments came during a conversation about bringing jobs back to the United States:
My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine. [KRBD]After the inevitable firestorm of negative media attention that followed, Young released a statement saying that it "was a poor choice of words," and that there was "no malice in my heart or intent to offend."
Consider people not impressed. Here is a look at how politicians and commentators across the political spectrum have reacted to Young's words:
1. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
Boehner didn't waste any time in denouncing Young. The day after the radio interview, Boehner told the Los Angeles Times, "Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. I don’t care why he said it — there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology."
2. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
McCain took to Twitter to distance the Republican Party from Young's remarks:
Don Young's comments were offensive and have no place in our Party or in our nation's discourse. He should apologize immediately
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 29, 20133. Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas)
The chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus made sure to get a jab in at the GOP, saying, "He has served alongside Hispanics in Congress since 1973, so he should know terms like 'wetback' have never been acceptable. As the Republican minority outreach efforts develop, I'd advise their strategists to list 'don't say racial slurs like "wetback"' as a bedrock for their messaging."
We're sure RNC chair Reince Priebus is writing down that helpful tip right now.
4. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas)
The young congressman from San Antonio kept his criticism short and sweet:
Mr. Young, your words are disgusting. "Congressman Don Young Uses 'Wetbacks' To Describe Latinos huff.to/14sfFMe via @huffpostpol"
— Joaquin Castro(@JoaquinCastrotx) March 29, 20135. The Washington Post
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin framed it as the GOP's "Archer Bunker" problem:
The message: Whatever effort they make toward modernizing their brand, there will always be a few Archie Bunkers out there — people, like the lead character in the 70's sitcom All in the Family, who are unconcerned with or unwilling to moderate their tone. And these days more than in the past, their offhand remarks can derail the most carefully orchestrated PR campaign. [Washington Post]6. Presente.org
The Latino advocacy group called for his resignation, complaining that Young issued a "non-apology saying he 'meant no disrespect' but that isn't anywhere near what needs to be done to make up for a member of Congress using a word with the harmful history of 'wetback.'"
7. Charles Blow at The New York Times
"The Republican Party has a severe minority problem," writes Blow, attributing it to cultural isolation:
Too many House Republican districts are isolated in naturally homogeneous areas or gerrymandered ghettos, so elected officials there rarely hear — or see — the great and growing diversity of this country and the infusion of energy and ideas and art with which it enriches us. These districts produce representatives unaccountable to the confluence. And this will likely be the case for the next decade. [New York Times]8. MoveOn.org
A petition started on a MoveOn.org-sponsored site argues that, as someone who seems to lack cultural sensitivity, perhaps Mr. Young should not remain chair of the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs.
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