Alaska's congressman regrets using 'insensitive term' for migrant workers
WASHINGTON — Rep. Don Young, the gruff Republican who represents the entire state of Alaska, apologized on Friday for referring to Latino migrant workers as “wetbacks” in a radio interview.
“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska,” Young said in a statement. “There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words,” Young said. “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.”
The 79-year-old Young, the second-most senior Republican in the House, issued a statement late Thursday seeking to explain the remarks he made to describe the workers on his father's farm in California, where he grew up.
Young, discussing the labor market during an interview with radio station KRBD in Ketchikan, said that on his father's ranch, “we used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes.”
He said, “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine.”
“Wetbacks” often refers to Mexican migrants who have entered the country illegally, and Latinos consider the word, which can be used to disparage all Latinos, to be highly pejorative.
His use of the word drew swift criticism from fellow Republicans.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Young's remarks were “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.”
Boehner said he did not care why Young said it: “There's no excuse, and it warrants an immediate apology.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said the party offers a “beacon of hope” for those seeking liberty around the world and that Young's remarks “emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party.”
Democrats also chimed in. “Shame on Don Young,” said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas. “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.”
Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, an online Latino advocacy organization, said Young should resign.
Young said that during the interview he had “used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in central California. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Suspect in custody after shooting at Colorado Planned Parenthood
- Floods claim lives in Texas
- Plasma burp seen in star’s destruction by black hole
- Chicago retail district targeted by protesters
- Man accused of jumping White House fence left suicide note, authorities say
- American held captive in Cuba for 5 years expected quick release
- Democrats face long odds in battle for lost congressional seats
- Experts foresee big premium increases for Medicare drug plan
- Former police officer who was indicted found dead in Massachusetts home
- Supreme Court justices to review Texas’ limits on abortion clinics
- Police investigate flights diverted for suspicious passengers, bomb threats