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Campaign observers might expect Rick Perry's critics and rivals to seize on the recent a Washington Post story about the hunting camp that Perry and his father leased formerly known as "Niggerhead." But so far, many of Perry's detractors are defending him.
"The name is clearly offensive and . . . from what I've read, the governor shares that opinion," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at Monday's White House press briefing, according to multiple media reports.
Much of the controversy surrounds exactly when the Texas governor's family effaced the offensive name from a rock on the camp property. As we reported, the Texas governor on Sunday was forced to defend himself against attacks from 2012 opponent Herman Cain, who accused Perry of being racially insensitive Sunday.
But Cain on Monday afternoon softened his criticism, saying that his remarks made to "Fox News Sunday," were not intended to be an attack on Perry personally.
"All I said was the mere fact that that word was there, was 'insensitive,' " Cain told reporters outside Trump Tower in Manhattan Monday. "That's not playing the race card. I am not attacking Governor Perry. Some people in the media want to attack him. I'm done with that issue!"
Watch video of Cain's comments below via CBS:
Cain's original statement to "Fox News Sunday" was: "There isn't a more vile, negative word than the 'N word' and for him to leave it there as long as he did, before I hear that they finally painted over it, it's just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country."
Other Perry critics are also coming to the governor's defense, including Democrats back home, the Texas Tribune reports.
"He doesn't have a racist bone in his body," former Democratic state Rep. Ron Wilson, who is black and served with Perry, told the Tribune. "He didn't then, and he doesn't now."
A number of Perry opponents in Texas issued similar responses to the newspaper, which noted Perry has appointed more minorities to statewide posts than any governor in Texas history-- a claim Perry's camp has used in his defense following the Post story.
Of course, not all Perry critics are coming to the governor's defense.
MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough suggested Monday that Perry and his family's decision not to swiftly remove the offensive sign disqualifies Perry to be president.
"The fact that that's what this camp was called until five years ago, that the sign to the entrance of the camp had that . . . anybody that would allow that to happen . . . . It just shows such an extraordinary racial insensitivity that I think it's disqualifying," Scarborough said.
You can watch Scarborough's full comments below via MSNBC:
Perry supporters and other observers immediately cast the Post story as a failed attempt at a hit piece, insisting that the information about the hunting camp has no bearing or connection Perry's personal beliefs.
"But the Washington Post puts the story of a fallen rock with a deeply offensive name at an obscure hunting camp on its front page in a stunning attempt to injure Perry by association with a name no one is quoted saying he ever used or did anything other than cause to have painted over," conservative Hugh Hewitt wrote Sunday.
Hewitt noted that only seven of the sources the Post spoke with reported seeing the offensive word in the 80s, 90s and in more recent years. Perry told the Post his father "soon painted over" the word after joining the lease in 1983 and that the rock was also turned over--something the seven sources disputed.
Hewitt called the article "drive by slander."
Erick Erickson of conservative site RedState linked to Hewitt's assessment and suggested that the Post writer distorted the story. "Stephanie McCrummen, a Washington Post based reporter formerly stationed in Nairobi has a history of fanning racial flames out of context."
"I judge folks by their character and ethics," Perry told the Post in his defense. "As governor, I represent a big, fast-growing and diverse state. My appointments and actions represent the whole state, including our growing diversity, such as appointment of the first African-American Supreme Court Justice--whom I later appointed Chief Justice--and the first Latina Secretary of State."