Analysis by Jim Avila, ABC News Senior National Correspondent:
Pressure is intense, the outrage factor high after Rep. Don Young’s racial slur overnight on public radio in his home state of Alaska.
Young called migrant workers on his childhood farm “wetbacks” during the interview.
“I used to own — my father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” said Young, 79. “You know, it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now.”
The reaction was so swift and white hot that Young issued two statements in one day. First, in what many felt was far from an apology, he said he meant “no disrespect,” never using the words “sorry” or “apology.”
Only after a full day of getting beaten up by his own party did the congressman make a mea culpa.
“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska,” he said. “There was no malice in my heart or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words. That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I’m sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
The GOP, criticized during the last election cycle for being slow to react to perceived insults against women, and now trying to rebuild a relationship with Hispanic voters, quickly jumped all over Young before his apology today.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, “Don Young’s comments were offensive and have no place in our party or in our nation’s discourse. He should apologize immediately.”
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, added, “There is no excuse for ignorance” and said that Young, a congressman of 30 years, should “know terms like ‘wetback’ have never been acceptable.
“Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families,” Cornyn said in a paper 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.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, harshly criticized Young.
“Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” Boehner said. “I don’t care why he said it – there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”
GOP strategist Danny Diaz told ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny today that Republicans learned their lesson last year.
“The comment was insulting, and I think people see that and they’re rightfully offended by it,” Diaz said. “What’s happened in the past in our political discourse is Republicans haven’t been as quick as they need to be to denounce comments such as these. It’s left a really bad impression on people.”
But here is what is still missing even now: GOP Hispanic Republican comment, especially from the Tea Party wing of the GOP.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s office told ABC News that the Cuban immigrant from Florida, who some see as the Republicans’ best hope of repairing Latino disfavor with the party, is observing the Good Friday holiday and will not comment today. The staffer referred ABC News to party leadership statements from Boehner.
But Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Raul Labrador from Idaho did not answer repeated emails or phone calls on the issue.
And as rapidly as things unfold in today’s political world, Rep. Young actually issued a full apology before the Tea Party Hispanics had a chance to call for one. Some say that it was smart not to get involved. Others are wondering where their outrage was.
ABC News’ Serena Marshall contributed to this report.