Last week, America’s Voice collected almost 4,800 signatures to investigate Kansas Rep. Virgil Peck’s comments about shooting undocumented immigrants from helicopters. To jog your memory, Peck is the state legislator who jumped in during a committee debate on how to control the feral hog population, and suggested that the method used for killing hogs could also be used to solve “our illegal immigration problem.” When asked for an apology, he slandered all southeast Kansans as fellow racists and rather obliviously claimed that no one else would have a problem with his statement.
Since then, Peck has been denounced by fellow politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike. LA Late talked to representatives furious about Peck’s comment:
[Kansas] Gov. Sam Brownback called the remarks “completely inappropriate…I’m from southeast Kansas.. I disagree with that statement.” Rep. Bob Grant told news that “I have no intention of letting Representative Peck brand me with his own extremist views just because I live in the same region.”
The blogosphere has been up in arms, denunciating “Klansas”. Chicago Now reminds us that hogs and helicopters are only the latest in a long trend of public racism:
"Let's microchip illegal immigrants so we can track them like lost dogs." "How about we put down land mines to get them at the border?"...The microchip comment was from Pat Bertroche, a physician running for Congress in Iowa. Tom Mullins, a Republican candidate for Congress in New Mexico, had the land mine idea.
Balloon Juice defended non-racist Kansans:
"I highly doubt this is the way southeast Kansans speak; tossing out jokes about genocide willy-nilly. I’ve never been to Kansas, but I saw The Wizard of Oz, and I don’t remember Dorothy taking a detour to shoot some Mexicans."
Constituents let it be known that Peck did not speak for them, with Janet Murguia, Kansas native and President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, writing in a letter:
"It is despicable that Peck would invoke his Kansan heritage to defend his remarks. I was born and raised in Kansas, and the people I grew up with are hardworking people with close-knit families, good neighbors and strong faith. They do not think that hunting human beings is funny. Kansans deserve better."
Kansas Democrats have asked him to resign, and Somos Republicanos is looking to strip him of his chairmanship of the Kansas House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee:
"We believe that Peck cannot be entrusted the responsibility to serve as chairman of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee, and we ask for the removal of Peck’s chairmanship…Peck has advocated violence in a civil society, and provoking violence should not be tolerated. Encouraging the shooting of people proves his inability to serve as chairman of a Public Safety Committee, and we hope to see Kansas Republican leadership replace him with a person who has reasonable and sound solutions to offer when conducting official business on the state floor."
Peck finally apologized via CNN:
"I'm Virgil Peck, and on Monday, I made an inappropriate comment. For that, I'm sorry, and I apologize to anyone that I offended with my inappropriate comment. I'll be more careful with my words in the future."
However, at this point it may be too little, too late. Latina Lista describes the Latino voting bloc as a sleeping giant that’s becoming fighting mad over comments like Peck’s, over public racism that’s somehow considered ok, over ridiculous and hyper-stringent legislation, over policies that tear families apart. With the 2012 election coming up and census data every day describing how crucial the Latino vote will be in key states, Republicans like Peck might want to reconsider how publicly they want to flaunt their racism. Advocating genocide is kind of hard to walk back.
Meanwhile, we’re still collecting petitions against Rep. Peck—we’ll be delivering the petition next week to the FBI, but we want to double our count before then. You can sign here.