Update 4:07 p.m.: Young has issued an apology.

Republican leaders on Friday denounced Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) for his use of the derogatory term "wetback" during a radio interview.

Republicans_Conservatives_012c7-1170_image_1024w Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Among the first to criticize Young were House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds," Boehner said in a statement. "I don’t care why he said it – there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

Cornyn, the Senate Minority Whip, was the first big-name Republican to criticize Young Friday morning.

"Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families," Cornyn said in a statement. "They do not come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials. The comments used by Rep. Young do nothing to elevate our party, political discourse or the millions who come here looking for economic opportunity."

Priebus added: "The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party. ... Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also called for Young to offer a full apology.


Young, 79, made the comments in a radio interview released Thursday. He explained in a statement late Thursday evening that the term was commonly used during his adolescence in central California.

"I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect," he said.

Updated at 12:07 p.m.

Follow Aaron on Twitter at @AaronBlakeWP.