Candidate Kinky Friedman: The mouth that roared


Gubernatorial candidate and professional wiseacre Kinky Friedman was accused Wednesday of making another racially offensive remark — this time in a year-old interview in which he said sexual predators should be thrown in prison and forced to "listen to a Negro talking to himself."

The independent candidate already was under fire for referring to Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Texas "crackheads and thugs." Some black politicians from Houston took that remark as a slap at black victims of the storm.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Houston Chronicle have reported on an interview with Friedman that aired on CNBC last year in which the country singer and comedian was asked what to do with sexual predators.

"Throw them in prison and throw away the key and make them listen to a Negro talking to himself," Friedman said. He also called "Negro" a "charming word."

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, former chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, said the remarks are unacceptable from a candidate for governor, and sound more like something uttered by someone running for "class clown or the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan."

Friedman’s spokeswoman, Laura Stromberg, said Wednesday: "Texans who know anything about Kinky know that he’s not a racist, and they’re going to see through all of this political correctness very soon. This is what they’ve got? Bring it on. Texans can see right through."

Democratic candidate Chris Bell said he was offended by Friedman’s remark, and added, "I just don’t think those types of comments have a place in this campaign."

Mark Sanders, a spokesman for independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn, said such "divisive language has no place in this campaign. Carole’s campaign is about uniting people to get things done, not about dividing people."

Republican Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign declined to comment.

Friedman was traveling to New York for a fundraiser Wednesday and was not available for comment. He told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday that anyone who is offended by his comment should vote for one of the other candidates.

"If I’ve got to lie to people, sweep the truth under the rug and worry about offending people, I’m not going to be very effective," Friedman said.

His spokeswoman said part of the "Negro" line was derived from a book Friedman wrote in the late 1980s that was being discussed in the CNBC interview before Friedman used the phrase.

"The United Negro College Fund doesn’t have a problem with the word Negro," Stromberg said, adding that Friedman does not use the word in everyday conversation.

Friedman also took some heat recently for a remark about ethnic politicking.

"I don’t eat tamales in the barrio, I don’t eat fried chicken in the ghetto, I don’t eat bagels with the Jews for breakfast," said Friedman, who is Jewish. "That to me is true racism."


Associated Press Writer April Castro contributed to this report.