The Washington Post smells blood with Perry

The Washington Post, famous for using the vague word "macaca" to demonize George Allen out of the Senate, has come up with a far more potent word to use against Governor Rick Perry. Stephanie McCrummen reports:

In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family's secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.

"Niggerhead," it read.

Ranchers who once grazed cattle on the 1,070-acre parcel on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River called it by that name well before Perry and his father, Ray, began hunting there in the early 1980s. There is no definitive account of when the rock first appeared on the property.

The Post is going all out to pin the offensive term on Perry, who avers that it is an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world."

...the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock - lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint - remained by the gated entrance to the camp.

Perry claims that he and his father did everything they could to get rid of the word:

'When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock during the 4th of July holiday,' Perry said in his initial response. 'It is my understanding that the rock was eventually turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.' In response to follow-up questions, Perry gave a more detailed account. 'My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984,' Perry wrote. 'This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit. ... Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over' ...

But the Post, smelling blood, is deploying resources to find others who dispute Perry's account, and claims to have interviewed more than 2 dozen people who might have passed by the rock:

Of those interviewed, the seven who said they saw the rock said the block-lettered name was clearly visible at different points in the 1980s and 1990s. One, a former worker on the ranch, believes he saw it as recently as 2008.

As with "macaca" there is no way Perry can win this conversation. Even if the name (which Perry had nothing to do with painting on the rock) was painted over at the first opportunity he had, but the letters were still visible beneath the whitewash, he becomes associated with the most potent poisonous word in contemporary American society.

Because Perry speaks with a drawl, and because the GOP has been demonized for decades as "racist", the charge will stick, no matter what the facts of the case are. And when people's vague memories conflict, a segment of the voting public will assume the worst.

The "macaca" remark aftermath demonstrates how expertly the Washington Post can gin up charges of racism to use against Republicans, even when there is no substance. Sadly, there is enough substance to this situation to seriously harm Perry's public image, particularly in a race against a black man.

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