Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain waded into a new controversy involving rival Rick Perry, saying it was “very insensitive” to have a racially offensive term painted in stone at the entrance to a hunting camp the Texas governor and his family had leased in West Texas.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the word “Niggerhead” had been painted in block letters on a rock at the gated entrance to the ranch, but that the word was now painted over and the rock was lying flat.
Cain, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” told moderator Chris Wallace that “that’s just very insensitive.”
There “isn’t a 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 over it, it’s just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country,” he said.
Cain, appearing on ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour,” repeated the entire name rather than couch it in a euphemism. “There are some words that do not basically inspire the kind of negativity like that particular word,” he said. “And since Gov. 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. It’s just basically a case of insensitivity.”
Perry told the Post that his family first leased the property in the early 1980s and that his father soon painted the rock. The governor said the word on the rock is “an offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
Cain is a restaurant magnate who scored a surprise win over Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Florida straw poll Sept. 24.
On another subject, Cain was asked about the criticism leveled Saturday by President Obama against GOP presidential candidates who stood silent at a debate Sept. 22 when a gay soldier, stationed in Iraq, was booed by the audience after asking about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Cain said during the heat of the debate, he thought the audience was booing repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. He said in retrospect he “probably” would have done something because of the “different interpretations” the audience disapproval could have had.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona also was asked about Obama’s shot against the GOP hopefuls. McCain, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said Obama “has a point,” but added that the overwhelming majority of Americans supported men and women in the military regardless of their sexual orientation.
When asked by Wallace whether Republicans could nominate a progressive African American, Cain said history is not necessarily predictive.
“The mood of the country, the citizens’ movement, they are rewriting the laws to this political landscape,” Cain said. “If it were not for the citizens’ tea party movement, if it were not for the power of the Internet, I wouldn’t be in this race making the news that I’m making right now.
“That’s the difference … the voice of the people. They’re not looking at history and what the Republican Party reputation might have been. They are now looking at this guy Herman Cain is putting real solutions on the table.”
Cain also defended his plan for a flat 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax, saying economists who criticized it as unfair to the poor it were wrong.