March 29th, 2013
04:22 PM ET
5 years ago

Don Young apologizes for racial slur

(CNN) - After heated backlash, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has apologized for using a derogatory word to describe immigrant workers.

"I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska," the Republican lawmaker wrote in a statement Friday afternoon. "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."

Young, Alaska's sole congressman, originally made the offensive comment during a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio earlier this week. Talking about how technology is affecting the economy, he referenced an anecdote from previously working on a farm in California.

"My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," Young said. "It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine."

Initially, Young said he had "used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California," adding that he "meant no disrespect."

That wasn't enough for some Republicans, who loudly called for Young to formally apologize.

In perhaps one of the most forceful reactions, House Speaker John Boehner called for an "immediate apology" from the congressman, who's now serving his 21st term.

"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," Boehner said.

Sen. John McCain, one of the leading GOP voices on immigration reform, said on Twitter that Young's comments "were offensive and have no place in our Party or in our nation's discourse."

"He should apologize immediately," he added.

CNN's Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

READ MORE: Republicans chide Young for his 'wetbacks' comment

READ MORE: Alaska Rep. Don Young walks back 'wetbacks'

Filed under: Alaska • Don Young
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    Resignation is the only apology acceptable.

    March 29, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Anthony in California

    This is the Republican party, America.

    March 29, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    and I'm sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform."
    Such a good little soldier.

    March 29, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Marty, FL

    Disgusting, please vote it out of our government.

    March 29, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. Illeagle-j1

    They got tomatoes, in alaska and wetbacks to pick them?

    March 29, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Wilson

    This comment belongs under a different thread but comments were closed before I got to it.....I am part Cherokee and though I thought Congressman Brailey's comment was a little ignorant (the 'lack of knowledge' meaning) I give him the benefit of the doubt on it. I think political correctness will be a goodly portion of the ruination of this country. As for myself, I am not very politically correct. I call a shovel a shovel.

    March 29, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    The Republican Party is finally taking baby steps to change its image. Eight years ago a Republican politician would never have apologized for saying something politically incorrect. Now if only Sen Cruz, Palin, Trump, or Bachmann would issue such an apology.

    March 29, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. IMeanReally

    Funny how the bigoted rants of Democrat Joe Mitchell didn't make the national news. The liberal media is so lopsided that it's now a comedy act.

    March 29, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  9. UDidntBuildThat

    Can we vote out Harry Reid for his racial comments. Democrats are the last to point any fingers. How many time did u guys re-elect Robert Byrd the Grand wizard of the KKK? Seems ok for him to orchestrate, lynching, and use ethic slur b/c as long as their is a D next to his name the sheeple line up to vote for him. Contrast that with Republicans who get rid of theirs and call them out on it. For every Republican that made a racial slur u can find twice as much Dems who do the same.
    How about Uncle Tom remember that?

    March 29, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  10. Thracen

    A republican makes an insensitive remark that offends millions of people. What else is new?

    March 29, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. bob ho

    ha ha, what a rednekcer

    March 29, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  12. socalpimp

    How is this any more offensive than SHOVING gay marriage down our throats? 1st Amendment allows free speech....NO amendment allows for DEVIANTS TO GET MARRIED!!!!!

    March 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. Sculptordad

    Not a racial or ethnic slur, it's a synonym for "illegal alien"; refers to illegals crossing the Rio Grande. Might be impolite, but not a racial slur.

    March 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. bfd007

    We need to get the criminal's (illegal's) out of this country they are destroying America he should never say sorry! These people have no rights and it would be nice to see them call them what they are! All Americans want to see is mass deportations and the rounding up these criminal's! Why has the federal government committed treason by allowing this invasion and then do nothing to stop it????? Police can kick in your door search your house but refuse to arrest one criminal (illegal) or even detain them when they are standing right next to them ! Talk about pandering to illegals and arresting innocent citizens and detaining people, illegal searches and nothing done about the criminal's (illegal's) Pathetic !

    March 29, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. Citizen Caine

    The mouth only utters what lies deep in the heart... and as they say, "you can take the boy out of the country, but cant take the country out of the boy"...

    March 29, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  16. HorseMan

    Typical republican hypocrite.

    March 29, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. Michael

    Given the GOP's visceral hatred for Obama, you should have allready figured out that being a racist is part of being a Republican these days.

    March 29, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  18. wildbill

    Omg stop crying about nothing grow some and fix the country i swam in my pool today my back was wet so what

    March 29, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. No Racist

    Heh, just brings to light what has always been there. Father owned a Ranch, yeah and probably a bunch of whips on that plantation er RANCH...

    Certain people have always been racist, it's in their roots...

    March 29, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. Citizen Caine

    BTW... it says he's on his 21st term... Why not limit the terms, just like the president's?

    March 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. AlabamaJoe

    I don't think wet-back is a derogatory term. It is a compliment on a race of people that work so hard their backs get wet with sweat.

    March 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. DENNA

    "There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words.
    No malice in your heart and no brains in your head apparently. LOL Good luck GOP trying to trick the Hispanic population in the U.S. to vote for you. Until you purge the dipwads from your ranks, expect to continue to lose elections.

    March 29, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  23. mike

    The actions, conduct of illegals in the united states hurts the US Citizen irregardless or race far more than any word ever can.

    Compliance First! Reform Second!

    March 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  24. frmrma

    @Illeagle-j1 – I guess you didn't read the story.

    March 29, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  25. The Dude

    My lawn looks fantastic! Thank you wetbacks!

    March 29, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
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