Rep. Don Young (R-AK) on Thursday night stood by his use of a racial slur to describe Latinos, saying that he “meant no disrespect” when he told an Alaska radio interviewer, “We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes”:
“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said in the statement. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
As the Alaska Daily News notes, Young “stopped short of apologizing.”
Listen to the interview:
The term “wetbacks” is meant to refer to undocumented immigrants who crossed from Mexico into the United States via the Rio Grande river. And the president of the Hispanic Affairs Council of Alaska, Alaska Daily News that she feels his cavalier use of the term points to bigger problems. “He didn’t even pause. It’s like that’s just what he calls migrant farm workers,” she said.
Young’s comments come just days after the Republican National Committee released its “autopsy” of the 2012 election, in which it said the party must work hard to be more inclusive of people of color. Such outreach has had little success so far, and the GOP is still plagued by racial inhospitality.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is condemning Young, according to Fox News’ Chad Pergram:
Cornyn on Don Young says migrants don’t “come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials.”
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 29, 2013
By Friday afternoon, Young had issued a full apology:
“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”