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Young, Alaska's sole congressman, originally made the offensive comment during a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio earlier this week.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. charles darwin

    Another Republican ?
    I have lost count of the dimwit remarks from these guys.

    March 29, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  2. The Dude

    The GOP need to change from the Elephant to the Ground Hog..They keep digging that hole deeper and deeper! lol

    March 29, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  3. carloooos

    I am an old, very white, non Hispanic. I fully support immigration reform and a path to citizenship for immigrants already here.

    March 29, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  4. FedUpInd

    I am tired of hearing Americans complaining about illegals taking their jobs. When the illegal is paid $5 an hour and you ask an American if they would work for that their answer is immediately NO. If you're not willing to work for that wage then don't say they're taking your job. We have a bunch of whining citizens in our country who have to blame someone for their inability to find a job. It used to be in the U.S. that people would go to where jobs were plentiful instead of staying home and crying about being out of work. Maybe people need to look into a mirror to see where the problem lies.

    March 29, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  5. BrightStar

    The real GOP in action.

    March 29, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  6. Adam

    This is ridiculous – I am NO longer republican, starting now. The term wetback is ALWAYS derogatory and malicious. The right is done. They scream and cry about government, but advocate for its presence in the most ludicrous situations (e.g., to prevent gay marriage). What a dumb party.

    March 29, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  7. ChrisN

    Wow, we're suddenly at a point where non-apologies don't even cut it for Republicans anymore? I'm amazed...

    March 29, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. SJH

    They are only sorry for saying stuff like this when they get caught. This is who he really is, a racist.

    March 29, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. Jerry

    Called "wetbacks" in reference to them having waded the Rio Grande to illegally enter our country. I don't give a damn if it offends them or not: they offend me by not only breaking the law to be here but also by being allowed to get away with their criminal acts by our government. Round 'em up & ship 'em back if they're not here legally or stop enforcing ALL laws on the books in America!

    March 29, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  10. Elena Ferrero

    Swimming across the river? I thought they walk by crossing mountains, deserts or through tunnels. I know that they come to Texas and California but wasnt that part of Mexico, after Spain conquered the Aztecs before returning to Europe, then was stolen from them by the USA.

    March 29, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  11. John

    What's so horrible about a negative term for lawbreakers? It refers to their lawbreaking, not their race. I wonder if liberals will ever apologize for the hate speech they spew at citizens who want enforcement of our immigration laws.

    March 29, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  12. Osvaldo bianchi

    The term wet back is in spanich "mojados" and it is not offensive, there is a few songs in spanchi where they name thenself "mojados"
    By the way they do not want be citycen tjey want to work for a few years and go back.

    March 29, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  13. Evelyn

    Why is it the illegal immigrants cry about everything that is said or written about them.? You invaded our coutry,go home.Be offended,who cares.

    March 29, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  14. Aiden

    This is one the reason why republican party will the minority party. Your problem is not the minority, its actually the majority that discussed by these offensive comments.

    March 29, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  15. chrisSA

    There is no reason for any politician to talk badly about any type of immigrant,America was founded by illegals. That's how america became such a great nation...Through the struggle and sweat of our ancestors. What a shame it's his 21st term.he doesn't even remember history class.idiot

    March 29, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  16. Mikenozaki

    They cannot change what they believe deep down. I like seeing the continued self destruction continue. Makes our candidates easier to elect and the Repub's seem even more pathetic then they are.

    March 29, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  17. Texas

    Thank you Rep. Don Young keep showing us the true face of the republican party.

    March 29, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  18. Elrey Jones

    End all immigration. The 1965 immigration reform act was a travesty imposed on us by bolsheviks. Repeal it or nullify it. Deport and resort to 24-7 agitation until the bolsheviks stop their terror against Americans.

    March 29, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  19. Bobpitt

    "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.

    Mr: Boehner that is the kind of language we see emanating from the GOP most of the time, is very offensive to say the least, do you think language as such helps the GOP to get the Latino vote?

    March 29, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  20. Jim

    I thought a 'Wetback' was anyone who crossed the Rio illegally? Thats not racial. A white german from Brazil could do it and still be a 'Wetback'.

    March 29, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  21. Fran

    WHY aren't people calling for this old geezer's resignation?

    March 29, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  22. Ann Mule

    Here we go again with Racism. A race is a distinct biological group. There are only 3. White, Black (African) and Oriental. All peoples of the world are 1 of these or a mix. Rep.Young used a derogatory term pointed towards illegal immigrants who crossed the Rio Grand into this country. By the way, goggle Operation Wetback, authorized by President Eisenhower.

    March 29, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  23. Southern Man

    For those that say it's not derogatory, try looking it up in a dictionary. Someone dumb enough to say that in an interview, shouldn't be in elective office.

    March 29, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  24. GOPUSA

    He is telling the truth...........Illegal Mexicans, WETBACKS are ruining our country, economy, lowering wages, home values..............Wetbacks do nothing but bankrupt our schools and communitys,then the parade their Mexican flag all over the place while they steal from the American taxpayer in plain sight. All illegal Mexicans should be deported and no conservative should pander to Wetbacks..............Rubio the token should go too he is useless to the conservative movement,he is a panderer to wetbacks. Send them all back to the border,anchor babys and all

    March 29, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  25. Jeb

    When Republicans "misspeak" they are showing what they're really all about = ignorance and hatred.

    March 29, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
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