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Cain scolds Obama, calls Perry "very insensitive"

Oct 2, 2011, 10:59 a.m.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain speaks to delegates during the Republican Party of Florida Presidency 5 Convention in Orlando, Florida, September 24, 2011. REUTERS/Phelan Ebenhack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain scolded President Barack Obama on Sunday for making "insulting" remarks to the Congressional Black Caucus and called fellow Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry's handling of a race matter "very insensitive."

Cain -- a black businessman who has risen in opinion polls in the last week after a surprise win over leaders Perry and Mitt Romney in a Florida straw poll -- has challenged rivals over their attitudes toward black voters.

He accused Democrats last week of taking the black vote for granted and offended some black leaders by saying many black supporters of Obama were "brainwashed."

Cain defended his use of the term in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" and criticized Obama, who in a speech last month at a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner urged the crowd to "stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying" and work to help pass his jobs plan.

Cain described Obama as "standing in front of a major black audience, the Congressional Black Caucus, and scolding them because his policies have failed the country, his policies have failed black people."

"That's more insensitive -- that's more insulting to me than me using a term 'brainwashed,'" he said.

The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, who is running on a platform of tax reform and spending cuts to bring down the huge U.S. budget deficit, said he was confident he could get one third of the black vote "because a third of the black people in this country at least are thinking for themselves."

Cain also called Perry "insensitive" over his family's use of a West Texas hunting camp once known by the name "Niggerhead" painted in block letters across a large rock at its gate.

SECLUDED HUNTING CAMP

The Washington Post reported on Sunday the Texas governor began early in his political career hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at the secluded hunting camp.

When asked last week about the name, which is now painted over, Perry said the word on the rock was an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world," the Post said.

Perry told the paper that his father painted over the name on the rock in 1983 or 1984, shortly after his family first leased the property. "Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over," Perry said.

Others interviewed by the Post recalled seeing the name in the 1980s and 1990s. A former ranch worker told the newspaper he believed he saw it as recently as 2008.

Cain said the former name for the camp was "a more vile, negative word than the n-word, and for him to leave there as long as he did before I hear that they finally painted over, it is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people."

Perry, a favorite of the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement, entered the race in August as a top-tier candidate.

But his sharp rhetoric -- he has called the Social Security pension program a "Ponzi scheme" and suggested that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be treated "pretty ugly down in Texas" -- have raised questions about his ability to win more moderate voters.

Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said a number of claims in the Post 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."

He said Perry's father painted over the name in the early 1980s and said by the time Perry became a party to the lease in 1997, it was described as "northern pasture."

Perry has not been to the camp since 2006 and is no longer on the lease, Sullivan said.

"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," he said.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer, Andy Sullivan and Steve Holland; editing by Jackie Frank and Vicki Allen)

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