Published May 30, 2013
The head of the Louisiana Democratic Party said on the floor of the state Senate this week that opponents of the federal health care overhaul are motivated by President Obama's race -- a remark that drew the scorn of state Republicans who now want her to apologize.
State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who is also chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, repeatedly invoked race as she railed against ObamaCare critics.
"I have talked to so many members both in the House and the Senate, and you know what? You ready? You ready? What it comes down to? It's not about how many federal dollars we can receive, it's not about that. You ready? It's about race," she said. "I know nobody wants to talk about that. It's about the race of this African-American president.
She tried to argue that because former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- who is white -- offered a "similar" overhaul in the past, the criticism this time "comes down to the race of the president of the United States which causes people to disconnect and step away from the substance of the bill."
The Republican Party of Louisiana is calling on Peterson to apologize for the comments.
"Bottom line is it's wrong to call someone a racist just because they disagree with you. There are a plethora of reasons why we disagree with ObamaCare ... and the race of the president or of anyone else has absolutely nothing to do with it," Ryan Cross, communications director for the state GOP, told FoxNews.com. "It's appalling and it has no place on the floor."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, also told local affiliate WBRZ that it's "wrong to call people racists" simply over opposition to the health law.
Peterson released a statement Thursday afternoon clarifying her remarks while also defending them.
"I think we should judge a policy by its content, not the person proposing it," her statement said.
"To be clear, I didn't call any person 'racist.' Rather, I was simply relaying the truth about conversations I've had with my colleagues and the factors they considered on the expansion of Medicaid.
"While others are using this as an opportunity to take my comments out of context in order to distract from the true issue, I think it's critical that we focus on the substance of the policy because it's the right thing to do for Louisiana."