Oh, brother: Perry to Cain
October 19th, 2011
01:30 PM ET
9 years ago

Oh, brother: Perry to Cain

(CNN) - A spokesman for Rick Perry said the Texas governor was simply being friendly when he twice referred to Herman Cain as "brother" at the CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate on Tuesday.

"He is a friendly fellow. He uses that kind of language. And he views all those folks on stage as colleagues, as fellow Republicans, and he speaks accordingly," said communications director Ray Sullivan on CNN's "American Morning."


Sullivan added that Perry called Romney the same term. When former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Romney were arguing over health care at one point, Perry could be heard in the background using the word "brother" while trying to jump in on the discussion.

And then can you add the word "But" to transition to the next sentence (and put in SOME before eyebrow), as in:

But Perry raised some eyebrows when he made the reference, saying: "Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something..." and "I'll bump plans with you, brother, and we'll see who has the best idea."

The Twitter universe especially lit up, with hundreds of people expressing surprise over Perry's use of the word.

Some called it painful, cringe-worthy, or flat-out racist.

Others used humor. Hip-hop artist @TalibKweli said: "Did I just see Rick Perry call Herman Cain "brother" twice like some sort of Texan Hulk Hogan?"

Comedian @KathyGriffin also weighed in: "Awkward. I'm waiting 4 Perry 2 say 'jive turkey.'"

But is "brother" a racially-tinged expression or is it, as some have argued, a nod to the two presidential candidates' common Christian faith?

As one Twitter user pointed out, sometimes Christians "great each other with Brother or Sister. Maybe that's the point Perry was making–We're both Christian."

This isn't the first time Perry's campaign has played defense on the issue of racism. Earlier in the month, a Washington Post report said Perry's family leased a hunting ranch that was previously marked by a painted rock with the word "N*****head."

Perry responded saying the story has a number of incorrect claims and that the rock had been painted over many years ago.


Filed under: 2012 • Herman Cain • Rick Perry
soundoff (156 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    "But is "brother" a racially-tinged expression or is it, as some have argued, a nod to the two presidential candidates' common Christian faith?"

    None of the above. It's just colloquial idiom. I use it and you can use my galringly white irish bum to read by in the dark.

    October 19, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. AV Dave

    It's not an uncommon thing for Southern men to refer to a friend as "brother." It seems that cultural sensitivity from others isn't allowed to Southern men.

    October 19, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "But is "brother" a racially-tinged expression or is it, as some have argued, a nod to the two presidential candidates' common Christian faith?"

    None of the above. It's just colloquial idiom. I use the expression solely as a way of referring to someone I'm friendly with...like people use "dude" or whatoever...it has no racial, religious or other connotation for me and I think for most people...and you could oprobably use the light cast by my glaringly white irish catholic bum to read by in a dark room. You can even go with the various permutations like "bro" or the horiffyingly annoying "brah" you might get from surfer types, stoners or people who watch Jersey Shore.

    Anyway, what this story is really about: fabricating an issue to provide an excuse for giving Parry and Cain more sensationalized media spotlight.

    October 19, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. steve fargo

    Please please please, give ,e a break. Really? He called him brother and that's supposed to be a bad thing now. Hypocracy of the highest order. Would they rather have them tear each other up like wolves like we saw than have them embrace each other as brother. Oh geess. I have a million reasons why I wouldn't vote for him but not this. Wow. American politics is depressing

    October 19, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. NukeTim

    Poor TRickster Perry.

    Does he even have a brother?????

    October 19, 2011 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  6. skarphace

    On the one hand, if Perry had referred to any other candidate as well as Cain as "brother" he would have a defense. As he said it only to Cain, then clearly it was because Cain was black, and blacks often refer to one another as "brothers".

    On the other hand, Perry is not likely to get much of the black vote anways, so he didn't really hurt his chances here.

    October 19, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  7. Mike, Albany

    Perry is an absolute moron, but I don't think he's a racist. However, next to Perry, W looks like a genius.

    October 19, 2011 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  8. phoenix86

    Only the left would impose their racism on Perry's use of the word.

    October 19, 2011 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  9. rubes

    brother is the least of my concerns, Cain have said way too many times I have misspoken. this concerns me very much. let's say he is our president and he mis speaks, and do to his choice of his choice of words of words causes a national security issue. we the american people will pay for t.hat. in this position there'.s no room for error. our leaders need to be held accountable for their words. I will not take I have misspoken for an excuse of his choice of words. america is not a pizzeria.

    October 19, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  10. fmjk

    The folksy explanation and the Christian explanation would only work if he called everyone on stage "brother.' But he called Mitt Romney "sir."

    October 19, 2011 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. Howard

    SA Wallick
    You made a great point. They complain about a problem that they are part of.

    October 19, 2011 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  12. tommyo

    I am not a supporter of Perry at all, but I believe he meant it in the context of friend or buddy, he says enough dumb things to focus on so no need to harp on this one

    October 19, 2011 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Tony 140

    We are really reaching here for any kind of an inkling that Perry is a racist. I think the key to that argument is if Mr. Cain thought it was a racial remake. Knowing Mr Cain – there are bigger things going on than for him to weigh in on this.

    October 19, 2011 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  14. dragon8me

    As a Texas I can tell you he wanted to call him boy. Theres different ways to use the word, 2 Christians, mainly from the same church will use it, but a white guy dosn't usually use it outside of church. The tone of voice and way it was used was a polite way of calling him the N word. It's funny watching these repubs when they have to interact with a black person. They always try to "talk jive". and can't pull it off because it's not how they normally talk. Cain should have punched him and said, turn the other cheek, brother.

    October 19, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Maria

    "Brother" Perry was trying to white wash his "n...head" stone on his ranch but it ended up sounding condescending. These people are all running for Chief Pretender. How about the term "anchor babies" from Bachman when this is the party who professes to be the undying defenders of life .....very offensive, as much as Cains "electric" fence is........

    October 19, 2011 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  16. Mike from MN

    Calling a person "Brother" in the manner that Perry did, is indeed a BLACK-thing to say: it is part of black culture.

    So Perry is STEREOTYPING Herman Cain with the use of "Brother". It's like the assumption white people make about all backs being rappers or gangstas!

    So in this intellectual context of the debate, it was indeed a dummy down tone by Perry towards Cain. Perry essentially called Hermain Cain *stupid* by trying to be *black* because the stereotype is that blacks are dumb.

    October 19, 2011 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  17. cee-dog

    "Brother" may be a small, simple word but the fact that Rick Perry calls Herman Cain "brother" speaks volumes.

    Given the recent revelation of Perry's decades of shooting parties at Niggerhead Ranch, is "brother" Rick Perry's nervous verbal tic? Maybe the tic of a racist? "I love you brother," he said to Cain at one point. Really? Why do you love him, Rick? Because he's a nice black man? Why don't you love Mitt Romney? Rick Santorum? Or, God forbid, Newt? Are you trying to prove you're down with the blacks? (They call each other "brother," right? So why not you?) "Brother" may be a little word, but his use of it and the context within which he's using it is just one more nail in Perry's misguided presidential ambitions.

    October 19, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. Henry

    I think Perry was being empathetic with an attempt to show Cain that they are like-minded and have things in common. Now if he would have said "Whad up wit dat Dawg" we may have laughed all night long.

    October 19, 2011 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  19. aggie95

    I was waiting for someone to pick up on this reference, as I immediately thought..."Wow! He's calling Cain 'brother', and twice!" That was my natural reaction, and while I don't think he meant it in a racial sense, but think he meant it in a racial sense...if that makes sense – lol. Basically, I think subconsciously he thought to use that word w/ Cain because he is, afterall, black, and that's a term commonly used to discribe a black male. I was saying he didn't use it w/ any of the other male candidates, although this article eludes to him using it in the background during another exchange (debatable at least). He didn't use it openly w/ any of the others, but did w/ Cain...And TWICE...Not a major issue (at least on surface), but definitely caused some, like myself, to lift an eyebrow.

    October 19, 2011 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  20. Darth Vadik, CA

    Why is this a big deal? Perry didn't mean anything by it except exasperation that we all use when dealing with Republicans...

    October 19, 2011 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  21. AVGPAGUY

    I really did not think much of, nor do I think that Herman did. I use the word every day. I generally refer to most of my male friends and associates as Brother. Being told something or having been relayed a message, I will often respond with, "Alright, my brother – you got it!" Etc., Etc. It is just generally part of some people's vernacular. I wouldn't read much into it.

    October 19, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  22. Scot

    Not that I care for any of them but I call my friends brother all the time. Its an old hippy term from back in the 60s /70s . Maybe he is a closet hippy who knows :>)

    October 19, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  23. Robrob

    Assuming Perry doesn't normally call people "brother" one has to wonder what he was thinking? I doubt it was any sort of racism at work, more likely a very heavy handed attempt at seeming "down with his peeps."

    October 19, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. Thomas

    I just think he sounds like a simpleton - I know he is not obviously but it is the way I find him to sound. I have a 'gut' reaction against this guy which I have no legitimate reason for that I now of (I say that in his defense and honesty). I wish he could just talk instead of making it look like a 'pitch' for some late night infomercial. Most kids I know use words like this and they stop it pretty soon after high school - I hope.

    October 19, 2011 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Laverne

    Hummm, funny I haven't heard him refer to any of the other candidates as "brother", I'm just saying...........

    October 19, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
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