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Alaskan Republican Rep. Don Young Still Uses ‘Wetbacks’ in 2013

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on March 28, 2013

Rep. Don Young is a 21-term Congressman from Alaska. At 79, he is the sixth oldest member of the House, the second oldest Republican. He served in the Army in the mid-1950s. All of that is to say Don Young is an old dude. He’s lived a long life. He’s seen more than you’ve seen. He’s seen changes.

But being old and stuck in your groove is no excuse for dropping an ethnic slur as casually as relaying the weather. In a local radio interview that aired Thursday, Young referred to tomato pickers on his dad’s farm as “wetbacks.”

“My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” he told KRBD in Alaska. “It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.” More context for the comment here — skip to 2:10.

If you’re curious, Hispanics and Latinos make up just 5.5 of the Alaska population, according to the 2010 Census. But could this be a national party problem? For a PR standpoint, this might be a problem with the very Latino voters the Republicans are trying to win over in the wake of a crushing 71-29 percent defeat for Mitt Romney among the demographic.

UPDATE: Young is walking it back: “During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”

Alaska Congress
AP Photo/James Mason

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