Romney's Spokesman Offers Lame Excuse For Massachusetts Governor's Naive Use Of Racial Epithet
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a likely 2008 Republican presidential candidate, kind of, sort of apologized yesterday for naively using a racial epithet during a speech Saturday in Iowa.
Speaking before 100 supporters in Ames, Romney used the term "tar baby" to describe the troubled Big Dig construction project in Boston. "The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can," he said.
Romney's spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Associated Press that Romney "was unaware that some people find the term objectionable and he's sorry if anyone's offended."
That's lame for several reasons:
1) Romney wants to be a national politician. He should know better. There are lots of dated phrases people still use. In 1984, then-Democratic Presidential Candidate Jesse Jackson used the "colloquial" term "Hymies" to describe Jews and "Hymietown" to describe New York City. Those comments, along with other things Jackson did that upset Jewish voters, continues to tarnish his image today.
2) White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, at his first press conference in May, raised eyebrows for his use of the term "tar baby." The left criticized him, the right defended him, but given all the press it received, it should have made it onto Romney's radar.
3) "He's sorry if anyone's offended," isn't the same as saying, "He's sorry." It's an apology that passes the responsibility onto the offended. In effect, Fehrnstrom is saying that Romney isn't sure what he said was offensive -- since only "some people find the term objectionable" -- which discounts the credibility of the apology.
Some black Republicans said they remained outraged.
"Tar baby is a totally inappropriate phrase in the 21st century," Larry Jones, a civil rights activist, told the AP. "He thinks he's presidential timber, but all he's shown us is arrogance."