DES MOINES, Iowa – The wife of Iowa's Democratic governor on Monday dismissed a report about a 1994 newspaper column in which she wrote that she had trouble understanding some blacks' version of English and referred to the "slurred speech" of Southerners.
Christie Vilsack (search), who addresses the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, issued a statement in response to a published report about the 10-year-old column that she wrote for the Mt. Pleasant News in Iowa.
In the column, cited in Monday's Boston Herald, Vilsack wrote, "I am fascinated at the way some African-Americans speak to each other in English I struggle to understand, then switch to standard English when the situation requires."
She also wrote that she found dialects from other regions of the country difficult to understand.
"The only way I can speak like residents of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania is to let my jaw drop an inch and talk with my lips in an 'O' like a fish," she wrote. "I'd rather learn to speak Polish."
After returning from a visit to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Vilsack wrote about "language problems" she encountered in the South. "When I ask for directions, I can't understand the slurred speech of southern Americans who are so polite and eager to please," she wrote.
Republicans forwarded the article to reporters.
"I think it's appropriate for her to apologize for her remarks," Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a black Republican, said in a telephone interview. Steele said he was amazed the Iowa governor's wife had "been asked to speak on values."
In her statement Monday, Vilsack said, "These are attacks by people who want to divide us and not bring us together. As a teacher and the mother of two boys, I am dismayed by this, especially because of my lifetime commitment to teaching tolerance, diversity and understanding to all children."
Vilsack's husband, Tom, was considered a possible candidate for vice president before John Kerry chose Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina to be his running mate.