Alabama Gubernatorial Candidate Tim James Defends Controversial 'Learn English' Ad

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 29, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JUAN WILLIAMS, GUEST HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight: a bizarre campaign strategy targeting non-English speaking people. A Republican candidate for governor in Alabama put out this ad called "Language."


TIM JAMES, ALABAMA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Tim James. Why do our politicians make us give driver's license exams in 12 languages? This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it. We're only giving that test in English if I'm governor. Maybe it's the businessman in me, but we'll save money, and it makes sense. Does it to you?


WILLIAMS: Critics say Mr. James is using fear of Hispanic immigrants for political gain. He joins us now from Montgomery, Alabama.

And Tim James, I just wanted to ask, you know, first of all, let me say I agree. I think that people should learn English. They should learn how to speak English. They should learn how to read English. I don't think there's any other way to make it in America. But the question in political terms is, are you pandering to anti-immigrant sentiments in order to try to advance what's been a very faltering political campaign?

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TIM JAMES, ALABAMA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Juan, good afternoon. Thank you for having me on the show. Of course we're not pandering. We passed an English law, Juan, in Alabama in 1990, and it's as much a safety issue as anything else on the roadways. But where this really came from — and I will tell you that we filmed this two months ago before all the country had really focused on this. We were sitting around one day, and some guys pointed out that we give our driver's license tests in 12 languages. And my campaign, my brand is about putting common sense back in government in every aspect of it, and it just — it struck me as odd and just so far from what makes sense. And we looked into it, and I looked at all the reasons, none of which hold up under scrutiny. And I came to the conclusion that this is nothing more than political correctness gone amuck. And so, you know, when you talk about common sense, this is part of it.

WILLIAMS: I just don't think, and I think your opponents also say this is not a central issue of life in Alabama. And what you've got is a faltering political campaign. I think you're running fifth or sixth in the polls, and it looks like you're just using — exploiting this issue in a way that could stir up a lot of anti-immigrant feelings and racial immigration in the state.

JAMES: No. We're not — we're not fifth or sixth in the polls. We're in the top three. It has nothing to do with it. We are a nation of immigrants, Juan. I'm Irish. We have German Americans, Italian Americans, Russian Americans, people from all over the world, and language assimilation is integral to becoming a success in this country. And what — what's happening here is we've just made a common sense point, and I have come under attack from the far, far left. Let me tell you something. We've seen Zogby polls where Latino-Americans agree with me by a margin of about 75 percent, so this is not picking on anyone.

WILLIAMS: Well, but you've got here a situation where the two former governors of the state both decided, you know, this is not necessary. We want to attract business to Alabama. We want people from all over the world coming to Alabama. You've got people building cars in Alabama, you know, from overseas, from Germany and the like. They don't want to put any kind of hurdle in the way of people who are coming to Alabama, so that they can get a driver's license and drive on your roads safely and legally. So what's the problem, Tim?

JAMES: Juan, that's the biggest argument. I've never heard more nonsense in my life. I'm a businessman. I'm really not a politician. I spent a career building companies, and I can tell you that, as a businessman, what business people want, what companies want is they want workers that can communicate with each other. And when workers, when you have to play charades to communicate with people that work for you, it makes it hard. In fact, in this country — in this country, we have about $65 billion a year in lost wages. American workers...

WILLIAMS: Tim, hold on. Hold on. It just looks — and I say this with feeling for you. You know, you're trying to make this campaign work. But it looks like it's an effort of a guy who is just grasping for straws and a publicity stunt to get attention for your campaign and without regard for the political consequence.

JAMES: Well, that's just not true. As a matter of fact, when the ads started, I had two ladies walk up to me in a restaurant who worked for the state licensing division, and they looked me in the eye, and they said, "You know, you're exactly right. We work in the state troopers. We license them. This is a problem." It's common sense, Juan. This is what we're trying to — trying to put back in government.

WILLIAMS: All right. I get your point. Good luck to you, Tim James. Thanks so much.

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