Those Race-Baiting Republicans Goof Again: WashPost Prints More DNC Spin

August 23rd, 2006 3:43 PM

The Washington Post on Wednesday maintained its iron grip on Republican ethnic gaffes with political reporter Jim VandeHei repeating the Democratic talking points against Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, who’s made several jokes about Latino workers having their citizenship papers. The headline, playing off their incessant Macaca riffs, is “Comments Haunt Another Senator.” (They don’t mean Hillary’s Gandhi-gas-station joke.)

Just so you know that this is a one-sided tactic, the Post didn’t notice in June that San Diego Democratic congressional hopeful Francine Busby told a largely Latino audience, “you don’t need papers for voting,” until after she lost, despite playing up her chances over the last weekend as a possible bellwether of big GOP losses. Now look at the first paragraphs of VandeHei's story and ponder if it doesn't sound like he's writing for the Democratic Press Release Service:

In a moment of unusual candor for a veteran senator fighting for his political life, Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) offered this blunt self-assessment a few months ago: "I can self-destruct in one sentence," he told supporters. "Sometimes in one word."

It seems Burns has spent a good part of the summer testing his theory.

A new video released this week by his Democratic challenger, Jon Tester, shows Burns, 71, joking to a crowd in June about how a "nice little Guatemalan man" fixing up his house might be an illegal immigrant. "Could I see your green card?" Burns tells the crowd he asked the man. "And Hugo, says, 'No.' I said, 'Oh, gosh.' "

A Burns spokesman said the senator never really doubted the legal status of the handyman, Hugo Reyes. But it wasn't the only time Burns -- a critic of illegal immigration -- has poked fun at the immigrants doing work around his house.

One week after the green-card crack, Burns recounted in a debate how after watching an interview on television of an illegal immigrant headed to Virginia for work, "I told my roofer, you better go out and get your help, or you won't get my house roofed."

The Tester campaign compiled the Burns statements and sent them to reporters this week. "Burns embarrassing Montanans is nothing new, and this is no exception," said Matt McKenna, Tester's spokesman.

VandeHei goes on to explain that the former radio announcer's self-deprecating comments on his political abilities were in relation to firefighters in the state, not immigrants. (More context from the local press here.) He also underlines how this kind of Democrat-friendly reporting may not mean much in the long run:

Seven years earlier, Burns apologized for calling Arabs "ragheads" in a speech about high oil prices. He won reelection a year later.

VandeHei, a native of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, also worked in a Democrat-friendly reference from a U.S. House race in western Wisconsin where yet another insensitive Republican is exciting the Democratic locals:

Also on tape are comments by Wisconsin GOP House candidate Paul R. Nelson, which critics have said are similarly racially insensitive. Nelson, who is running against Rep. Ron Kind (D), has called for racial profiling as a way to tighten airport security. When asked by a radio interviewer how to identify a Muslim male, Nelson said: "Well, you know, if he comes in wearing a turban and his name is Muhammad, that's a good start."