Alaska Congressman Don Young told a public radio station Tuesday that he and his father used to hire “wetbacks to pick tomatoes” on their ranch.
“I used to own — my father had a ranch. We used to hire 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes,” the 79-year-old Republican lawmaker said during an interview on KRBD. “You know it takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It’s all done by machine.”
By Thursday night, Young had come under substantial fire for using the term “wetbacks” — a pejorative term for Mexican farm workers — and issued a statement insisting he “meant no disrespect.”
“During a sit down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” Young said. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect.”
The statement has done little to slow down criticism, with the Alaska Daily News writing that Young “stopped short of apologizing” and the liberal Think Progress blog writing that he “refuses to apologize.”
Young has been in Congress for 40 years.