Related topics

Senate Hopeful Retreats From ‘Wanna-be White’ Comment

September 27, 1996

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ A Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate said Thursday he was wrong to call the Republican party’s only Mexican-American congressman a ``coconut″ and ``wanna-be white.″

Victor Morales, who made the remarks about Henry Bonilla, said, ``I used terms I should not have used.″

``While I disagree strongly with the perspective Mr. Bonilla brings to his office and the manner in which he represents his constituents, public discourse should be conducted on a higher plane,″ said Morales, who is running against Republican incumbent Phil Gramm.

His remarks Wednesday were quickly denounced by Republicans, and Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said President Clinton should cancel a campaign appearance with Morales scheduled for Friday.

``Morales’ racial slurs are abhorrent and indefensible, but Bill Clinton is hopping on a plane to Texas tomorrow to campaign with Morales,″ Barbour said. ``If he is serious about more civil politics, then he should denounce Morales and cancel his plans to campaign with him.″

Morales, a Mesquite schoolteacher, said Bonilla reminded him ``of the people when I was growing up that we called chocolate chips, coconuts,″ adding that they were dark-skinned but ignored their heritage.

``To me, there are certain people within the Hispanic community, who for their own reasons, seem to forget who they are ... and that’s the way he strikes me,″ Morales said.

Bonilla, the first Hispanic Republican elected to Congress in Texas, has declined to comment.

Pulce Martinez, a state GOP activist, said Morales’ comments hurt everyone in the Hispanic community.

``Hispanics can’t get ahead because they keep pulling one another down,″ said Martinez, chairman of the state party’s efforts to get more minorities involved in the GOP. ``He should debate him, not attack him personally.″

Update hourly