Protesters carry American and Mexican flags on their march to demand immigration reform in Los Angeles, California, October 5, 2013.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

GOP candidate defends use of ‘wetback’ slur

Updated

A Texas Republican Senate candidate is defending his use of the term “wetback” to describe undocumented workers.

Chris Mapp made the remarks at an editorial board meeting with the Dallas Morning News earlier this month, then took to his Facebook page Saturday to criticize the paper for claiming in an editorial that he had said “ranchers should be allowed to shoot on sight anyone illegally crossing the border on to their land,” refering to those people as “wetbacks.”

It is time to take the gloves off and get the real story out and tell you what was really said.
Did I say “Wetbacks should be shot on sight”?
“NO” I DID NOT.
I said “OUR BORDERS CAN BE RESPECTED BY CHOICE OR BY FORCE AND CHOICE IS NOT WORKING.
Did I use the term Wetback?” Yes”.
Did I use the term illegal immigrant? “Yes”
Would I use the term undocumented worker? “Not likely”

When the San Antonio Express-News asked him about the disagreement Friday, Mapp said that using the slur for Mexican immigrants was as “normal as breathing air in South Texas.”

In his Facebook post, Mapp said he used the terms “wetback” or “illegal immigrant” but not “undocumented worker.” He also insisted that he had not said immigrants should be “shot on sight” but that borders can be “respected by choice or by force and choice is not working.”

On Tuesday, Mapp took to Facebook yet again, saying he was “not asking for the kkk [sic] vote” and acknowledged the controversy over the slur.

Maybe I could have just used the term illegal, I don’t know but that’s offensive as well, what do you call those who come here and will not use the border crossing and do it legally?” he wrote. “[W]hat do you call them?”

“I see the liberal media as race baiting bomb throwers,” he added.

Mapp is one of a handful of candidates vying for Cornyn’s Texas Senate seat, including Rep. Steve Stockman. He’s also not the first Republican to come under fire for using the slur. 

Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young used the phrase to refer to Latino farm workers during an interview with a public radio station last March. Young eventually apologized for remarks, saying he knew the term “is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.” 

He issued a more forceful apology later after facing pressure from GOP leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, saying in a statement he had “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,” he added. 

John Cornyn

GOP candidate defends use of 'wetback' slur

Updated