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Don Young: Calling Hispanics 'wetbacks' no longer appropriate

Eric Christopher Adams
Alaska Congressman Don Young is known, even revered, for his legendary tongue lashings. But calling migrant workers "wetbacks" during a radio interview led to a rare apology from the veteran Republican on Thursday.
RepDonYoung via YouTube

Alaska Congressman Don Young has apologized for referring to Hispanics who allegedly worked on his family farm as "wetbacks."

During an interview Thursday with KRDB-FM, a radio station in Ketchikan, Alaska, Young was asked about issues currently under debate in Congress like job creation and immigration:

Young also believes that Americans need to bring industry back to this country rather than relying on imports. Doing so would increase jobs, although he understands that automation has reduced the number of labor positions available.

'My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,' he said. 'It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.'

Listen to the full transcript of the interview here.

Late Thursday, the congressman's press secretary, Mike Anderson, issued a statement, said to be from Young, apologizing for the racist comment:

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. I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect. 

Migrant workers play an important role in America’s workforce, and earlier in the said interview, I discussed the compassion and understanding I have for these workers and the hurdles they face in obtaining citizenship. America must once and for all tackle the issue of immigration reform.

Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com