House Speaker admonishes fellow Republican for immigrant slur

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 29, 2013 6:12pm EDT

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Friday condemned a reference to migrant workers made by fellow Republican Representative Don Young, calling the comments "offensive and beneath the dignity of the office."

Young referred to migrant workers as "wetbacks" in a radio interview aired in his home state of Alaska on Thursday, but issued an apology late in the day after criticism. The term is considered a slur against illegal immigrants who crossed into the United States from Mexico.

"My father had a ranch. We used to hire 50-60 wetbacks ... to pick tomatoes ... it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It is all done by machine," Young said in the interview.

The lawmaker was speaking about the economy and technology. In an initial apology, he said he did not realize the term was considered offensive.

In a later statement on Friday, Young called the term "insensitive" and "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," he said.

Boehner issued a statement saying there was "no excuse" for the comments.

"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," he said.

Young, who has spent 40 years in Congress, also is facing a House ethics investigation into possible misuse of campaign funds, failure to report gifts and other offenses. The ethics investigation is similar to an earlier Department of Justice inquiry, which produced no charges.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Additional reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Jackie Frank and Ian Simpson)

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Comments (55)
AlkalineState wrote:
The GOP, in its latest attempt at ‘modern makeover 2.0,’ is going to feed Sarah Palin’s buddy in Alaska…. to the wolves.

Mar 29, 2013 1:00pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
akcoins wrote:
What’s the big deal? This guy has been doing this for 30 years. He even got away with changing a congressional bill after it had been passed, to help a campaign contributor. How does one get away with that? If I was a congressman I would be raising cain about it.

Mar 29, 2013 1:18pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
BlakeC wrote:
Yeah, and I’ll bet before Boehner’s statement, he told Young, “Hey Don, I’m going to admonish you in public for the good of the party, but when I get finished, let’s have some drinks and a few laughs about it”.

Mar 29, 2013 1:29pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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