Texas Gov. Rick Perry found himself playing defense again today, this time facing a new round of criticism stemming from a Washington Post report on his family’s lease on hunting grounds, which once was known by a racist name that is derogatory towards blacks.
According to the Washington Post, Perry and his father held leases on a property in West Texas that was once called “N*****head.” The camp was called by that name for years before Perry and his father partook in the lease. A stone bearing this word stood at the entrance to the property, but the word was later painted over, and the rock was overturned so the offensive word would not be seen, the Post reported.
The Perry campaign contested the claims made by the Washington Post, saying the family never owned the property that bore the derogatory name.
“A number of claims made in the story are incorrect, inconsistent, and anonymous, including the implication that Rick Perry brought groups to the lease when the word on the rock was still visible. The one consistent fact in the story is that the word on a rock was painted over and obscured many years ago,” Perry communications director Ray Sullivan said in a statement.
Perry’s father Ray first leased the property in 1983. Perry told the Washington Post in an e-mail that his father painted over the word shortly after he joined the lease.
“When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock during the 4th of July holiday,” Perry told the Post. “It is my understanding that the rock was eventually turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.”
Perry himself held a hunting lease on the land for several years between 1997 and 2007. His campaign says Perry has not visited the grounds since 2006.
“My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984,” Perry told the newspaper. “This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit.”
“Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over,” Perry said.
But the Washington Post spoke with seven anonymous sources who had different recollections, saying they saw the rock with the racial slur on the property during the span that Perry leased the hunting grounds.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain took issue with Perry’s connection to the property that displayed the racist word in an appearance on two Sunday talk shows, including ABC’s “This Week.”
“My reaction is that it is very insensitive. Since Governor Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off of that rock and renaming the place. It’s just basically a case of insensitivity,” Cain said on “This Week.”
Cain echoed those sentiments on “Fox News Sunday,” and the Perry campaign was quick to respond to Cain’s characterization of Perry and the sequence of events surrounding the hunting grounds.
“Mr. Cain is wrong about the Perry family’s quick action to eliminate the word on the rock, but is right the word written by others long ago is insensitive and offensive. That is why the Perrys took quick action to cover and obscure it,” Sullivan said in a statement.
Perry also came under fire from Al Sharpton, who said Perry should “fully explain his family rented from a place named after such an obvious racist term or he should withdrawal from the race.”
“He is either blindly insensitive or hopelessly unaware of where he spends his time,” Sharpton said. “Either way it makes one wonder if he is ready for prime time and certainly whether he is ready for the White House.”