A ‘Washington Post’ report revealing the racially insensitive nickname of a hunting camp Rick Perry and his family once leased — “Niggerhead” — will most definitely hurt the Republican presidential candidate’s primary chances, but will it hurt his party, too?
Rick Perry’s campaign faced its biggest hurdle this weekend. Sure, the Texas governor’s 2012 team has had to defend their candidate against attacks on his lackluster debate performances and the fact that he signed into law legislation that illegal immigrants receive in-state tuition rates, a big no-no for conservatives who loathe illegals.
And the White House hopeful will soon have to explain remarks he made this weekend about sending U.S. troops into Mexico to quell that nation’s drug trade.
None of Perry’s problems, however, are as potentially disastrous as the latest scandal: the ‘Washington Post’ this weekend revealed that Perry and his family once leased a hunting camp that bore an entirely racist nickname: “Niggerhead.”
The name was first introduced before Perry’s father first began leasing it in 1983, and remained a common name for the site during the family’s time there. Perry himself put his name on the lease for the years 1997 and 1998, and again from 2004 until 2007, a period that falls within his gubernatorial reign.
Though Perry’s team originally tried to play down the report, growing outrage forced them to release a number of statements on Sunday, including assertions that Perry’s father in 1983 had covered the name, which was painted in block letters on a massive rock outside the camp’s entrance. Seven sources, however, contradicted his version of events.
From the ‘Washington Post:’
Perry’s version of events differs in many respects from the recollections of seven people, interviewed by The Washington Post, who spoke in detail of their memories of seeing the rock with the name at various points during the years that Perry was associated with the property through his father, partners or his signature on a lease.
The embarrassing story gained even more traction after Herman Cain, the lone African-American GOP candidate, blasted the camp’s name as “insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”
Civil rights activist and liberal MSNBC host Al Sharpton also joined the conversation, saying, “At worst, he either thought it was something he could identify with and even have some bit of irony.”
He went on, “At best, he’s insensitive. How can someone who would seek the highest office in the land be so insensitive to the implications of that name?”
As Perry’s campaign tries to clean up this mess, one from which he probably won’t be able to bounce back, there’s more pressing question on the horizon: will the rest of the Republican field join Cain, Sharpton and others in denouncing the hunting camp’s offensive name?
While Republican candidates have stood back and let racist comments fly (note their silence on habitual Islamophobe Herman Cain) they truly have no choice but to come out against Perry on this one.
While standing by and letting Perry’s campaign implode may seem like the logical thing to do, silence makes them complicit and could even read as tacit support for “Niggerhead.” Staying mum would indicate to American voters, particularly independents, that the Republican Party still endorses, however quietly, the racism that has marred our nation for centuries.
Sure, some Republican voters appear comfortable lobbing racist attacks against Obama, but those attacks are widely accepted by the GOP because they’re directed against an ideological enemy. But the Perry-associated term is directed against all black people—something only the most racist and un-American voter would willingly condone.
Even if candidates like Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul do come out against Perry’s hunting camp, this story also reminds voters that the Republican Party has an atrocious record on fighting racism and xenophobia, and could very well hurt the GOP’s overall odds as we head into the official primary season.