Chris Cillizza
Reporter March 29, 2013

Message to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska): “Wetback” is not the preferred nomenclature, dude.

Young, 79, used that slur for Mexican Americans during an interview with a local radio station when trying to make a point about how technology has shrunk the number of jobs in the country.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House. View Archive

“My father had a ranch,” Young told KRBD in Ketchikan. “We used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes. It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”

Within hours of the quote making its way to the national press — the KRBD Web site put it in the 12th paragraph of a story titled “Don Young talks economy, Arctic development” — Young explained that the term was “commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California” and that he “meant no disrespect.”

Friday afternoon, he offered a fuller apology, saying “There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words.”

For a Republican Party that badly needs to improve its image in the Hispanic community — Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of Latino votes in the 2012 presidential race, for Pete’s sake — Young’s comments did not go over well. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) released a statement Friday saying that “Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.”

The last thing Young needs is more negative media attention. The House Ethics Committee announced this month that it would investigate whether Young failed to properly report gifts. Of the investigation, Young told KRBD: “We’ll see who’s right and who’s wrong.”

Yes, we will. But Young was way wrong to use such a slur.

Don Young, for channeling Archie Bunker, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.

Have a candidate for the Worst Week in Washington? E-mail Chris Cillizza at chris.cillizza@wpost.com.

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