Kinky Friedman Defends 1980 Racial Slur

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006; 11:03 PM

AUSTIN, Texas -- Comedian and independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman on Thursday defended his use of a racial slur during a performance at Houston nightclub 26 years ago after an audio clip of the standup routine was posted on the Internet.

Friedman, 61, said he has tried to expose and lampoon racism, and was making fun of bigots when he used the n-word twice in a joke.

"They're attacking me for something that Richard Pryor did, that Lenny Bruce did, which is to have the freedom to poke fun at anybody that you want. The whole show is satirizing racism," Friedman said at a fundraiser in New York.

But State Rep. Garnet Coleman, former chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said it was difficult to find the humor in his joke after his remarks about Katrina evacuees in Houston in which he referred to them as "crackheads and thugs."

Coleman, who has endorsed Democratic candidate Chris Bell, said nobody would have scrutinized Friedman's 1980 joke before the comments about Katrina evacuees, most of whom are black.

"It makes it more relevant because people then look to see, is this part of your character," Coleman said. He said Friedman "needs to change his tune or get out of the race."

A staffer for Coleman posted the audio on the left-leaning political Web site Burnt Orange Report. Phillip Martin said he did the posting in his off time after getting it from an old fan of Friedman's.

Other Friedman comments criticized recently include a television interview from a year ago in which he said sexual predators should be thrown in prison "and make them listen to a Negro talking to himself," Friedman said. He also called "Negro" a "charming word."

Friedman's campaign has said the CNBC interview in which he made the "Negro" remark was a reference to a book he wrote in the 1980s. His spokeswoman said Friedman, who also is a country singer, is a threat to the two-party system, so his opponents are digging through fictional books, comedy shows and song lyrics to try to paint him as a racist.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican seeking re-election, Bell and independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Friedman's language was unacceptable.


Associated Press writer Adam Goldman in New York contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Associated Press