Rivals give Perry pass over racist rock
October 3rd, 2011
06:32 PM ET
11 years ago

Rivals give Perry pass over racist rock

Washington (CNN) – When news broke in the national media over the weekend that Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry’s family had leased a property in his native Texas known by the name “Niggerhead,” Perry’s campaign swiftly responded. But so far, almost no one has taken the opportunity to slam Perry over the property’s controversial name. Instead, the reaction has been subdued - even from the White House and from some of Perry’s most prominent and outspoken rivals for the GOP nomination.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that early in his political career, the Texas governor had played host to friends, supporters, and fellow lawmakers at a secluded West Texas hunting camp with the derogatory moniker. According to the newspaper, the property’s name was “painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.” Citing written responses from Perry, the Post also reported on Perry’s efforts to deal with the offensive name by painting over the rock. But the Post also reported that Perry’s account differs from recollections of seven people interviewed by the newspaper about the property.

"A number of claims made in the story are incorrect, inconsistent, and anonymous, including the implication that Rick Perry brought groups to the lease when the word on the rock was still visible," Perry communications director Ray Sullivan said in a statement Sunday after the Post story was published. "The one consistent fact in the story is that the word on the rock was painted over and obscured many years ago."

Given the reaction to the story, it appears that Perry’s campaign may have protested a bit too much.

Mitt Romney, Perry’s chief rival in the GOP race, said Monday in a cable news interview that he found the term offensive and thought most people view the term as such. Then, Romney suggested that the matter should be taken up with Perry.

Also speaking Monday, Herman Cain, one of Perry’s surging rivals for the GOP nomination, dialed back his earlier criticism of Perry.

"I really don't care about that word. They painted over it," Cain said, referring to a sign painted on a rock at the property the Texas governor once leased.

The matter "doesn't bother me at all," Cain added, emphasizing that he was satisfied by Perry's explanation of it and that he was "not playing the race card. I am not attacking Gov. Perry."

Rival and fellow Texan Rep. Ron Paul wanted to talk about other things. "I have no idea what the circumstances were,” Paul said when asked about the controversy while campaigning in New Hampshire Monday, “but in this day and age to try to turn something around and make him say that he endorsed using that word - I think we should worry about the wars, and assassinations, the economy, not trying to find out some way that you're going to blame Perry.”

Asked to comment on the situation during Monday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney also took a pass. “All I would say is the name is clearly offensive,” said Carney, “and, from what I’ve read – and I have no inside knowledge beyond what I’ve read – the governor shares that opinion.” Pressed for more, Carney did not take the opportunity to criticize Perry. “I really don’t know that much about it except from what I’ve read and that’s all I can say about it.”

Holding forth on Twitter Monday afternoon, Democratic strategist and CNN Contributor Donna Brazile also suggested, like Paul, that there are more important things to talk about. “I prefer to discuss the President's jobs bill, the wall street protestors and the upcoming march to reclaim the American Dream for all,” Brazile, who is African-American, tweeted after telling her 100K+ followers that she’s found most conversations about racism in the country to be “divisive & counter-productive.” The topic of racism “becomes polarizing,” Brazile also said on Twitter Monday.

But Perry has not escaped entirely criticism-free. Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Time Magazine he found the situation “very troubling on some many levels, for so many reasons.” The outspoken Steele, who is African-American, added, “It does lead one to feel that there was a level of insensitivity about how this would be perceived by the larger community.”

And liberal firebrand Al Sharpton, who is African-American, has leveled perhaps the strongest criticism at Perry. The situation revealed by the Washington Post “is alarming and displays a new height in racial insensitivity in national politics,” Sharpton, president of the National Action Network said in a statement Sunday. “Mr. Perry should immediately fully explain how his family rented from a place named after such an obvious racist term or he should withdrawal from the race. He is either blindly insensitive or hopelessly unaware of where he spends his time. Either way it makes one wonder if he is ready for prime time and certainly whether he is ready for the White House."

But GOP strategist Alex Castellanos suggested that Perry’s ties to the property may become a political millstone around his neck should he win the nomination and face off against the nation’s first African-American president.

“In addition to poor debates, government vaccines, and immigration issues, Rick Perry has tied another stone around his neck,” Castellanos, who is not currently supporting a candidate in the 2012 race but who did work for Romney’s campaign in the 2008 cycle, said in an e-mail to CNN. “There are growing doubts in the GOP that he could be a credible candidate against Obama. Republicans are concerned that Perry's missteps might make the race a referendum on the challenger instead of the incumbent. That's the campaign Obama wants and it scares Republicans to death.”

- CNN's Shawna Shepherd, Jason Kessler, Rachel Streitfeld, Gabriella Schwarz, and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Follow Martina Stewart on Twitter: @MMStewartCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Mitt Romney • Rick Perry • Ron Paul
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Kweg Yung

    Corporate America's expansion into China was paid for by the American taxpayer. Bush's “tax cuts for the rich” policy funded this transition. That's why no American jobs were created but a lot of Chinese jobs were. Republican politicians represent the corporate rich, the 'job creators'. When was the last time you saw a job created in the U.S.? The rich don't pay tax in this country and their corporations are physically based in communist China; where, by the way, SOCIALIZED healthcare and SOCIALIZED education are the norm. Republican politicians sold us (U.S.) out.

    October 3, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  2. David

    Timing is everything, pics will be released at a more opportune time.

    October 3, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. Anthrofreak

    Nothing to see here. Move along...

    October 3, 2011 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  4. Former Republican, now an Independent

    That's because none of them see a problem with racism or class warfare. The members of the current day republican party include White Supremists, Skinheads, Neo Nazis and other extremist factions that are driving the party off the edge. "Politics over the People" remains their motto and is in sync with most Facist movements in the world.

    October 3, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  5. StackaDon

    The real story is not when the rock was painted over. In regards to the name of the property: why would the Perry family lease this property, how did the property get this name, and does the property still have the name?

    October 3, 2011 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  6. joesixpackjr

    The washington post article was the death knell for Perry's candidacy. He is toast. I worry about a liberal leaning newspaper basically manipulating a political race and deleting a conservative candidate based upon anonyomous sources. Fortunately, Perry was not a very good prospect for the presidency, but I think the voters should have made that call.

    October 3, 2011 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  7. logic in LA

    The rock is just one small item that shows why this man has no business as a leader of anything.
    His "vision" for our country is so out of touch with America that not even Texans should be happy to say he is one of them.

    October 3, 2011 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  8. Rachel

    C'mon, y'all. He knew what the sign said. He's at least literate. And he didn't take it down from the get-go. Another nod-and-wink Teapublican good ol' boy.

    October 3, 2011 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  9. Charlie from the North

    When it comes to rocks the one between this dude's ears is more bothersome than what he had to paint over.

    October 3, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. thomas

    Rivals give Perry pass over racist rock !

    The same Rivals who did nothing when a soldier was booed at the last debate !

    October 3, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  11. DfromthePeg

    So much hullabaloo over a nonstory.

    October 3, 2011 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. TomNPitt

    And so it was written, and then painted over. Low be it those of Republican race who ever speak of it again.
    So says the book of Koch!!

    October 3, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  13. Semiahmoo

    One word to describe Perry: arrogant. What the heck, add selfish and greedy to the mix.

    October 3, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  14. Nomad69

    If the TB's dont give him a pass they will offend their base.

    October 3, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. Scott A

    Makes sense the other GOP candidates would give him a pass. They all probably have their own rocks with the same word where they go hunting too. And it isn't like they expect to get the Aftican-American vote, they are John Birch type conservatives after all.

    October 3, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  16. Anthony... proud tax payer

    Because his rivals feel the same way.
    Let's just make a list of all the things that the GOP have said or done this year alone, and read it back to them in 2012.
    Republican behavior > anything they can say about Obama come election time.
    See you in 2012.
    Obama/Biden or Obama/Hillary

    October 3, 2011 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  17. no1atall

    Grand Master Foot-In-Mouth strikes again! Those who know Slik Rik say that this is just the tip of the iceberg; stay tuned.

    October 3, 2011 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  18. Jason G.

    A GOP presidential candidate with a racist past? I for one am SHOCKED at this unexpected revelation! Next thing you know, it's going to be uncovered that they want to let the sick and elderly without insurance die!

    October 3, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  19. Nate

    I'm not Perry supporter but this should not even be an issue. It's not like he painted the word on the rock.

    October 3, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |

    I just been looking at the GOP race and these people are not a part of the American Dream What is getting next to me is we're talking about 20 people taking this Country so far back and I came up with what I think is the GOP. Being a disable vet
    these guy's most of them look to be about my age ( 59-60 ) it's the medication.They don't even think about their children have to grow up in this world. You alway talking about History it's going to be great when your kid's real about what you to this Country. TRAITOR.

    October 3, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  21. Mr Door

    Now he's unelectable.
    Over all that camp is a nice place to visit. You should see all the hand crafted ropes in the trees

    October 3, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  22. independent

    Well shucks, he didn't come right out an say N--, did he. Besides, he has brought in all those minimum wage jobs, with no benefits, for all the minimum wage folks. Of course he cut spending on basic education; what do folks with minimum wage jobs need with excess education. And health care, well he'll let the market take care of that.

    October 3, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  23. Beaver Cleaver

    This is ancient history. It was originally reported in 1983. Nothing new to see here...move along.

    October 3, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |