Controversy

The offensive name of Perry's old hunting camp: A campaign problem?

The Washington Post puts the GOP frontrunner on the defensive by shining a light on the racially insensitive name of his old hunting grounds

Rick Perry's presidential campaign is fighting back against a Washington Post story that links the Texas governor to a hunting camp long known by a racially offensive name: "Niggerhead." (For years, the name was "painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright" at the gated entrance of the 1,070-acre parcel.) The Post reports that Perry's family first leased the land in 1983. The name was already painted on the rock then. Over the years, Perry brought many fellow lawmakers to the hunting camp, and his name was on the lease twice — from 1997 to 1998, and from 2004 to 2007. The governor insists that his father painted over the offensive word as soon as he leased the land in 1983, though several visitors to the camp dispute that account. Will Perry's explanation settle the matter, or will this story haunt his campaign?

This will hurt Perry, and it should: Perry has "got some explaining to do," says Steven Thrasher at Gawker. Seven people interviewed by the Post contradict Perry's claim that the family promptly covered up the sign. They say the block-lettered name was visible well into the 1990s, and possibly as recently as 2008. This puts Perry in a fix: If he disavows the sign too strongly, "the Tea Party will tar and feather him as a weak-kneed." If he doesn't — well obviously, that's worse."Rick Perry and the curious case of 'Niggerhead' Ranch"

The Post's story is damaging, but unfair: This isn't the first time the Post has ginned up racism charges against a Republican, says Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker. Remember how the paper used "the vague word 'macaca' to demonize George Allen out of the Senate"? In this case, Perry has forcefully called the ranch's "poisonous" handle an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world." Isn't that enough? Sadly, probably not. "There is enough substance to this situation to seriously harm Perry's public image, particularly in a race against a black man."  "The Washington Post smells blood with Perry"

The scandal is harmful — but not necessarily to Perry: The "big loser" here is "not Perry," says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast, it's Herman Cain. The former pizza mogul, the only African-American candidate in the GOP presidential field, called Perry "very insensitive," noting that there "isn't a more vile, negative word than the N-word." That seems reasonable enough. But now Cain is going to have to prove to the mad-as-hell GOP base "that he isn’t morphing into Al Sharpton.""Perry racism flap's real loser"

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