The House rejected Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s resolution condemning Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s longtime use of a hunting camp named “Niggerhead” as a destination for friends and supporters.
Republicans used a procedural maneuver today to set aside the politically motivated proposal in a move that allowed them to avoid voting on its merits. But before that vote was cast, Jackson delivered an impassioned floor speech in which he used the racial slur multiple times and suggested that a rejection of his proposal would imply “the Congress of the United States is painting over a profound problem that exists in this nation.”
“Mr. Speaker, nigger is offensive,” the Illinois Democrat said on the floor.
“Niggerhead is offensive. And for a governor of one of the great states of our nation to hunt at Niggerhead camp, it’s offensive, and I think that I’m expressing the moral outrage of all Americans.”
Jackson’s resolution came in response to a Washington Post article published Sunday about the name of the hunting property that Perry’s father, Ray, began leasing in the early 1980s. Gov. Perry added his own name to the lease from 1997 to 1998, when he served as state agriculture commissioner, and again from 2004 to 2007, while he was governor.
According to the Post article, Perry acknowledged that the racial slur once inscribed on the rock at the entrance to the camp is an “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar was the only Democrat to cross party lines and vote with Republicans to table the proposal, which was set aside on a 230-173 vote.
Cuellar’s press secretary, Jose Borjon, said the Congressman does not believe that Perry is racist, and he credited Perry with appointing Cuellar, who is Hispanic, to be Texas secretary of state in 2001.
Another Texas Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, acknowledged that the issue “is a big deal.” But Gonzalez, who is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also defended Perry.
“I’m not a Rick Perry fan by any stretch of the imagination,” Gonzalez said. “I have no idea when the words were painted over on the rock, or not. But I would say this: I don’t think those words would be the sentiments of Gov. Perry.”
Gonzalez added, “Right now, things are so politically charged.” When the issue is racial slurs, “naturally, you just get really excited about the use of words like that,” he said.
Rep. Allen West, the lone Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, dismissed Jackson’s resolution.
“This is why Congress has a low approval rating, because the American people are suffering, and we should be coming up with viable solutions and not concerning ourselves” with the issue, the Florida lawmaker said. “It’s just not our business, and it’s very disappointing.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.