Published October 15, 2009
A video featuring a Kansas legislator criticizing President Barack Obama's policies while wearing a hat describing opossum as "the other dark meat" was removed Thursday from YouTube, where the lawmaker had posted it last month.
Republican Rep. Bill Otto said he didn't remove the video, titled "RedNeck Rap," and didn't know why it had been taken down. Google Inc., YouTube's owner, could offer no explanation.
Otto said criticism of the video was unfounded. He said the hat's saying, which he repeats at the end of the short video, refers to redneck stereotypes, not Obama.
The White House declined to comment Thursday, but Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, called the video "disturbing." He said it's logical to see the reference as being to the first black president's race.
In the video, Otto pauses after criticizing Obama and his policies, repeats the saying on the cap and adds, "A little greasy, but hey."
"It's a reference to rednecks," Otto said during a telephone interview from his home in LeRoy, a small town about 75 miles south of Topeka. "It's like 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' eating opossum bellies, grits and pigs' feet."
The flap comes less than two months after U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, another Kansas Republican, remarked in a public forum that the GOP was still looking for "a great white hope." She later said she wasn't referring to Obama and didn't know of the phrase's past link to pre-civil-rights era racism.
Attempts by AP to access Otto's video Thursday night resulted in a message stating that it had been "removed by the user." Google spokesman Scott Rubin said if a video is removed for violating YouTube's standards, a message would say so.
"With 20 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube, we cannot comment on individual videos," he said in an e-mail message.
Meanwhile, Hensley accused Otto of "bigotry."
"If opossum is the other dark meat, what is the original dark meat he is referring to?" Hensley said. "It is not only thoughtless, but outrageous."
Otto replied: "I don't know where he's getting that."
Hensley, though, pointed to an incident he said happened earlier this year involving Patrick Woods, legislative liaison for the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
Woods said he encountered Otto in March while walking between the Statehouse and an office building, and Otto said he'd confused Woods with Rod Bremby, the state's secretary of health and environment. Woods said Otto told him, "I almost shot you. You look at lot like Secretary Bremby."
Both Woods and Bremby are black, but Bremby is decades older and has a beard, while Woods does not. Woods said he took the remark as "a terribly inappropriate joke," not a threat.
But Otto said the suggestion that he made such a remark is "totally bunk." He said any encounter with Woods occurred perhaps several years earlier and he only suggested Bremby ought to be fired over how his agency regulated day care centers. Otto said he confused
Woods with Bremby only from a distance and only because he didn't know Woods well.
Hensley also noted Otto sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the state budget this year to withhold funding for the state advisory commissions on disabilities, African-American Affairs and Hispanic and Latino American Affairs.
Otto called it a cost-saving move amid the state's financial problems, but acknowledged Thursday that he believes it's "racist" for the state to have special commissions for some groups and not others.
"We haven't had an Irish-American council or an Asian-American council," he said.