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Dems: RNC's Bruce Ash uses racial slur in Obama comment

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Dems: RNC's Bruce Ash uses racial slur in Obama comment

  • Ash's Facebook post.
    Ash's Facebook post.
  • Bruce Ash, via Facebook.
    Bruce Ash, via Facebook.

Arizona's Republican National Committeeman, Tucson businessman Bruce Ash, used what opponents called out as a racial slur Thursday. In a Facebook post about President Obama, Ash said the president is "shucking and jiving" about health care reform.

In somewhat tangled syntax, Ash posted "Some people wonder why I cannot figure out why I believe Obama is shucking and jiving on ObamaCare."

"Bruce Ash should be ashamed of himself," Pima County Democratic Party Executive Director Shasta McManus said via email. "It's so sad that a national committeeman of the 'Party of Lincoln' doesn’t have sufficient sensitivity to grasp the inappropriateness of what he wrote."

Ash said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon that his comment didn't have any racial connotation.

"There are plenty of folks who are shuckers and jivers," he said. "There is nothing in my lexicon that has racial overtones."

"I have disgust for people who in 2013 are so obsessed with race baiting" as to make an issue of his post, he said. "There are lots of things the Democrats have said about me that aren't true."

The phrase is generally considered a pejorative reference to the purported devious behavior of African-American slaves, who were tasked with cleaning ears of corn.

Roland Martin called out the use of the phrase in a 2008 column for CNN:

“Shucking and jiving” have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a “foot shufflin’ Negro.” In fact, I don’t recall ever hearing the phrase used in reference to anyone white.

"It's a slavery-era term that questions the trustworthiness of African-Americans," said Pima Dems spokesman Jason W. Ground. "Whether Bruce meant it that way is not for us to say, but it certainly is questionable."

Local African-American leaders could not immediately be reached for a reaction to Ash's remark.

Ash said "I leave the room" if he encounters people making racist comments. "It's not going to be said in front of me."

Ash didn't say his use of the phrase was a mistake, but that "if I had it to do over again, I'd stick to criticizing the president for not staying on script." 

"When somebody does not keep their promises ... when they are not a true partner," Ash said, "(the Democrats are) trying to distract from what the real arguments are."

"If I didn't know better I would think Bruce and other Tea Party Republicans had more than just a disregard but a contempt for the lessons of history," McManus said.

"Not only did Bruce disregard the historical racist overtones of his comment, he failed to recall this exact mistake made by another Tea Party leader," she said. "If the GOP ever wants to successfully rebrand themselves as a party of inclusion, a good first step world be to open a history book."

Last year, Sarah Palin stirred controversy when she used the phrase to characterize Obama's statements on the attack on a U.S. mission in Libya.

Earlier this month, right-wing radio talker Rush Limbaugh said the president's policy on Syria was "Operation Shuck and Jive."

New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo also attracted condemnation for a 2008 use of the phrase in reference to Obama.

Ash, elected to the RNC in 2007, is the chair of the Rules Committee.

His remarks about Obama aren't the first time his comments have raised eyebrows.

In 2009, he said the then-chair of the Pima County Democratic Party should "ask any of the brown people who live on the South Side, or the West Side, or the South Central Side" about Tucson's crime rate.

In 2010, Ash — who is Jewish — blasted then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords for being insufficiently pro-Israel, saying she "claims to be a Jewess" while calling on "Christian communities" to support Republican candidates Jesse Kelly and Ruth McClung in their races against Giffords and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva.

Thursday, Ash referenced anti-Semitic remarks directed at him during his childhood. "I'm probably overly sensitized ... I'm not going to allow that sort of thing, whether it's about blacks, Latinos, whatever," he said.

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