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Young, Alaska's sole congressman, originally made the offensive comment during a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio earlier this week.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. Codestud3

    It's not like when blacks use the n word in conversation. Only liberals can insult minorities.

    March 29, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  2. Kharlos

    GOP doesn't got the last november vote punishment!

    March 29, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. dsangiovanni

    He should resign, We do not need apology, he should resign. 21 terms?.. OMG... What kind of people we have representing us...

    March 29, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  4. Ray

    But they ARE wetbacks... When did Americans become so thin-skinned? Sheesh. Now we can't even call them illegal aliens... which is, in fact, what they are.

    Grow a pair, people.

    March 29, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  5. Nimrod

    We prefer the term "wets" or "mojados".

    March 29, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  6. Johnny Yuma

    Apologize? Why would anyone tell the Republican Party what they need to do to appeal to Americans? Let them dig their heels in and ramp it up into overdrive. This stuff will insure that they'll never take the White House again in a fair election.
    Keep going boys, I'm getting out the popcorn and the Johnnie Walker. This is getting good.

    March 29, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  7. rick

    for all you people that want to send them all back, next time you sit down to eat some fruits and vegatable. that migrant worker is the reason you have it. farmers have it bad enough with weather and fuel prices. you take away the experienced supply of labor and they're going to cut back. already more and more are being moved to places like peru, where labor is plentiful. of course, then those fruits and vegetables will now come with some serious security issues.
    what we need is an immigration reform that does not punish the laborer or hurt the farmer. not some knee jerk reaction because a bunch of talking heads on your favorite tv show has convinced you they need to go.

    March 29, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  8. Jan Persson

    They are not immigrants, they are illegal immigrants what is it that you liberals do not understand!

    March 29, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  9. Insight

    Used as a disparaging term for a Mexican, especially a laborer who crosses the U.S. border illegally. [From the fact that the Rio Grande is a common entry point.]

    March 29, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  10. Patrick in Wisconsin

    It's people like Don Young that are causing more and more Latinos to shy away from the republican party. Republicans need to realize that in order to win in todays America, where whites will soon be a minority, they need to drop people like Young at the border (no pun intended).

    March 29, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  11. frank123

    just shows how out of touch alaska is with the rest of the least this congressman...

    March 29, 2013 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  12. Blanca Vazquez

    Republican's u never going to take back the White House .Racist people!!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  13. motorfirebox

    The guys leading the charge against Representative Young are... his fellow Republicans. We're winning!

    March 29, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  14. michael reid hunter

    I live in Alaska...we've been trying to dump this stupid dinosaur for us, please!!!

    March 29, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  15. Complete ignorance

    Comments like the one this GOP idiot made is nothing more than example of the overwhelming intolerant & bigoted theme of the Republican Party. These apologies are a waste of time – as if he's really sincere about offending anyone.

    March 30, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  16. mario

    i think even regan would be sad to see the republican party the way it is right now

    March 30, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  17. beth _weihe

    It's not a racial slur if it's true. The term is derived from the fact Mexican crossed the border in the waterways, thus the term. It's certainly not derogatory.

    March 30, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  18. jk

    After reading most of the posts herein, it is more than apparent that there certainly are aliens and they have come from some other planet and sucked the brains out of most of you. The lack of civility in the comments tells more about the pathetic state of people in this country than the inane ignorance which is totally disgusting, with what was said by this senator. Anonymity has given license to bullies making statements of the lowest forms. Sick and sad.

    March 30, 2013 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  19. Jason

    "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."
    That's funny coming from McCain. This is the same turd who regularly used the term "G00K" when referring to the Vietnamese up until the 2000 presidential election.

    March 30, 2013 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  20. Lumpy

    He said it. He feels it. The republican party, feels the same way, regardless of the back peddling. This bunch would sell they're grandmothers into slavery to gain power and authority. Any damned fool knows and accepts this as the truth.

    March 30, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  21. Hangtooth

    Bless his little heart. He's befuddled and in need of a timeout. After all, he's not to be held accountable for what he says, he's just a republican and needs to be treated as if he were special. No Good Trash.

    March 30, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  22. Sam Brown-Tulane University

    The Republican establishment was right to condemn him before the Democrats got to him. They would have publicized this as an example of right-wing racism. While I believe that this comment can be attributed to ignorance rather than racism, the Republican party will have to get rid of people who make these types of offensive remarks if it wants to stay relevant in a changing world. The Hispanic vote will win the presidential election in 2016, and comments like these will only give the election to the Democrats.

    March 30, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. Marita

    These appologies exhaust + annoy me! Most of them are insincere + made only to regain/maintain popularity! – @Marita.

    March 30, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  24. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    What the GOP is telling him is... "Hey stupid, don't make our true feelings public"!

    March 30, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. 1twinsfan

    So the good man from AK freely admits he employed undocumented workers. And that term is used to belittle and dehumanize a person. Over 40 millions Hispanics in the US but only about 11 million are undocumented. But the GOP would tell them all to self-deport. I told my half-Hispanic kids when they were growing up that on election day, the GOP will see you as citizens who can vote, the day after, they'll tell you to get out of your own country. My family came over on a boat from Ireland 200 years ago. My husband's family come over on a boat from Tombstone. Who should leave?

    March 30, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
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