Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is catching flack even from his colleagues for his casual use of a racial slur against Latinos in an interview this week. Young was reminiscing about his family ranch in California, where they would “hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.” Young seemed confused at the backlash, saying he “meant no disrespect,” but stopped short of actually apologizing for the remark.
Young’s comment has been swiftly disowned by Democrats as well as his fellow Republicans, who have stressed the need to win over the fast-growing Latino voter bloc through greater tolerance and outreach.
1. SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): “Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families. They do not come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials. The comments used by Rep. Young do nothing to elevate our party, political discourse or the millions who come here looking for economic opportunity.”
2. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): “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.”
3. RNC CHAIRMAN REINCE PRIEBUS: “The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party.”
4. REP. RUBEN HINOJOSA (D-TX), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus: “Shame on Rep. Don Young. It is deeply disheartening that in 2013 we are forced to have a discussion about a member of Congress using such hateful words and racial slurs…When elected officials use racial slurs, it sets back our nation and sets back legislators who are seriously working toward real, bipartisan solutions. Rep. Young says that he was just using the language he was accustomed to as he grew up, but there is no excuse for ignorance. 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.
5. DREAM ACTION COALITION: “While senseless rhetoric used by Republicans is hardly surprising, what is surprising is that the Gang of 8 leaders working on immigration reform are not publicly condemning these remarks…As senators that come from states with large latino and immigrant communities, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Rubio must condemn these insensible remarks to demonstrate their commitment to fixing our broken immigration system and demonstrate neither party will tolerate insulting remarks against Latinos, immigrants, or any community in our country.”
6. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): “Don Young’s comments were offensive and have no place in our Party or in our nation’s discourse. He should apologize immediately.”
Despite constant exhortations to reach out to minorities and young people, the GOP has continued to be plagued by racial intolerance. Even as lawmakers rushed to disavow Young’s offensive slur, 38 Republicans and 1 Democrat introduced a House bill to make English the official language of the United States.
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.”