Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry came under pressure Sunday to explain why his family’s hunting retreat was called “Niggerhead” and why the racially offensive name remained painted on a giant stone there for years.
The Washington Post reported that the word was painted on a flat rock standing upright at the gated entrance of the secluded Perry family hunting refuge in Texas.
The 1,070 acre parcel, used for hunting and fishing retreats, was the venue of getaways hosted for decades by Perry, who entertained fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters there, the report said.
The Post said that the getaway was given its objectionable name long before being acquired by Perry, but that the Texas governor did not change it for years after obtaining the lease on the property.
The report said Perry had called it “an offensive name that has no place in the modern world,” but that questions remained over his handling of the issue.
“Nigger,” one of the most reviled words in the American lexicon, is a pejorative word used to denigrate African-Americans.
The Post said that the offensive word was still faintly visible under a coat of white paint.
Perry’s campaign on Sunday, in a statement to the Politico.com website, decried what it said were inaccuracies in the Post story.
“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,” said Ray Sullivan, communications director, RickPerry.org, Inc, a campaign website.
“Governor Perry and his family never owned, controlled or managed the property referenced in the Washington Post story. The 42,000-acre ranch is owned by the Hendricks Home for Children, a West Texas charity,” Sullivan told Politico.
“Perry’s father painted over offensive language on a rock soon after leasing the 1,000-acre parcel in the early 1980s. When Governor Perry was party to the hunting lease from 1997 to 2007, the property was described as northern pasture. He has not been to the property since 2006. In 1991 the Texas Legislature passed a bill to rename old, offensive place names,” Sullivan’s statement to Politico said.
But the use of one of the most offensive American slurs drew immediate condemnation Sunday from Herman Cain, who like Perry is vying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
“My reaction is that is very insensitive,” Cain, an African-American, said on ABC television, adding that few words “inspire the kind of negativity like that particular word.”
Cain added: “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.”
In a separate interview with the Fox News Sunday program, Cain said there is “no more vile negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did, before I hear that they finally painted it over is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”