Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Republican presidential campaign found itself scurrying Sunday to limit potential damage from a Washington Post report that raised questions about racial insensitivity – to wit, that the entrance to the Perry family hunting camp was once marked by the word “Niggerhead” painted on a large rock.
The Perry team disputed facts in the Post story and said the word has long been removed.
It can be tricky for white Southern national candidates of a certain age (Perry is 61) to navigate the shoals of race, and this odd story is an example of that.
Fellow GOP contender Herman Cain, who is African American, jumped on Perry, calling him “insensitive” for his handling of the situation. “There isn’t a more vile, negative word than the ‘n word,’ and for him to leave it there as long as they did is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country,” Cain said in a Fox News interview.
“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,” Communications Director Ray Sullivan said in a statement.
“The Post story acknowledges the rock had been painted and turned over. The Perrys did not own, name or control the property, they simply rented hunting rights to 1,000 acres of the ranch.
As Gov. Perry told the Washington Post, ‘The old name has its origins from another time and era when unfortunately, offensive language was used to name some land formations around the country. When my dad joined the lease in 1983, he soon painted over the offensive word. It is my understanding that the rock was also turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.’”