Don Young Says ‘Wetbacks’ Was ‘Poor Choice Of Words’

Rep. Don Young’s “wetbacks” comment during an interview Thursday has drawn a storm of controversy after the quote pinged around the internet — and Young has now somewhat apologized for the slur he spoke.

Yesterday, Rep. Young was discussing migrant labor and recalling the use of it on his father’s crops when he was younger. The Alaska GOP congressman recounted his experiences, saying:

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

By later in the day Thursday, the Republican’s “wetback” comment had already begun to draw criticism, and Rep. Young issued his first acknowledgement that the remark had caused offense.

In a statement later that day, Young said:

“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.”

While the GOP congressman seemed to admit he had said something offensive, Young stopped short of an actual apology.

Throughout the day Friday, GOP leaders distanced the party — which is struggling with minority voter sentiment — from the Republican’s “wetbacks” usage. And Young issued a second statement about the controversy, specifically apologizing for saying it:

“I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. 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.”

Below, video of the interview in which the Republican called migrant workers “wetbacks.”