|Site Updated: 10:14 PM | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2003|
Friday, December 20, 2002 8:40AM EST
North Carolina's Ballenger says he's had segregationist feelings
The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C.(AP) - Responding to Sen. Trent Lott's recent comments, Rep. Cass Ballenger told a newspaper he has had "segregationist feelings" himself after conflicts with a black colleague.
Ballenger, a North Carolina Republican, said former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., so provoked him that "I must I admit I had segregationist feelings.""If I had to listen to her, I probably would have developed a little bit of a segregationist feeling," Ballenger told The Charlotte Observer in Friday's editions. "But I think everybody can look at my life and what I've done and say that's not true.
"I mean, she was such a bitch," he said.
McKinney, who lost her re-election bid, has an unpublished telephone number and could not be reached by The Associated Press early Friday for comment.
Ballenger told Charlotte radio station WBT Friday that his comments were "pretty stupid on my part" and that he didn't think he had segregationist feelings.
"I talk too much," Ballenger told the radio station. "In that specific case, I was trying to say that almost anybody can develop an animosity to individuals. In this particular case, I picked on Cynthia McKinney because she was what I consider less than patriotic to the United States."
Ballenger also told the newspaper some of his constituents might empathize with Lott's remarks, but nonetheless called on Lott to resign as the GOP's Senate leader.
Ballenger's Chief of Staff Dan Gurley, reached at home early Friday by The Associated Press, said Ballenger's comment was "not a general statement of his belief."
"There's no question in my mind that the comment there is not a reflection of his general view, it's only a reaction to the pushiness of somebody like McKinney," Gurley said. "In fact, I've seen him go out of his way to show himself as just the opposite of that."
Lott ignited a firestorm this month after praising Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign during a birthday bash for the South Carolina senator.
The Mississippi Republican has apologized and said he believes he has enough support from his colleagues to retain his job and has vowed to fight for it.
Ballenger told the Observer that Lott should "drop out of leadership but stay in the Senate."
Asked if he believes Lott is a segregationist, Ballenger said, "I'd have a hard time saying he wasn't. Basically in some areas of the South, in Charlotte and everywhere else, there are people who get rubbed the wrong way (thinking) 'We've got to bend over backwards; we've got to integrate' and things like that."
Ballenger, a senior member of the House Committee on Education, easily won a ninth term in November with 60 percent of the vote.
When told of Ballenger's remarks, Rep. Mel Watt, a black Democrat from Charlotte, said he believed race was not the main motivation for them.
"I suspect that whatever she's doing that's gnawing on him has to do more with what she's saying and how she's saying it than the fact that she's black," he said.
"I doubt it's her blackness that's annoying him, but it's probably that added factor that makes it intolerable to him, in a sense. I wonder if somebody white did and said the same thing that Cynthia McKinney is saying it would even become a part of his discussion."