Are Bush appointees racist?

Democrats spotlight a pair of Texas officials who have been dinged for bigoted remarks.

Published October 20, 2000 7:00PM (EDT)

In an effort to conjure up nightmares of a possible Bush administration, Democrats are pointing to two examples of past Bush appointees and, not surprisingly, they are not the most flattering.

In 1997, Gov. George W. Bush named Marshall Police Chief Charles Williams to the state's Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.

In 1998, Williams testified in a court case that terms like "porch monkey" and "black bastard" were not offensive. "If it's in a general statement, no, I don't consider it a racial slur," Williams said. He went on to argue that when he was growing up, blacks didn't mind being called "nigger."

"I was born and raised with blacks," Williams said. "And back then we had Nigger Charlie and Nigger Sam, Nigger Joe. And we regarded those people with all the respect in the world. That was their name  They didn't mind. It wasn't any big deal then."

In 1999, Bush named Williams chairman of the commission.

After Williams' comments were publicized -- Bush claimed that he hadn't know of them when he promoted Williams to head up the commission -- Bush said, "I don't accept racism in any shape or form. At the very minimum, he ought to apologize." Williams was good enough to eventually resign, becoming just another little-known footnote to Campaign 2000. He died soon after.

To Bush's Democratic opponents, however, Williams was no anomaly. They point to a story in Wednesday's Houston Chronicle, for instance, detailing yet more allegations of racism against yet another 1997 Bush appointee.

On Feb. 2, Texas Health Commissioner William "Reyn" Archer III had a conversation with an associate commissioner, Dr. Demetria Montgomery, that Montgomery taped. In the conversation, Archer made several odd and possibly offensive comments, including an admonition about Montgomery's predilection for facts.

"Facts lead to lynchings," Archer said.

"You're smart. You're capable. You're fair (-skinned) as a black woman," Archer went on. "You get certain privileges in white culture that others don't get for that."

On Sept. 20, Montgomery was fired; on Monday, armed with the tape, she filed a sex and race discrimination complaint against Archer and another Health Commission supervisor with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A Bush spokesman has said that Bush called Archer's comments "inappropriate."

Maybe, but the comments were not uncharacteristic. Earlier this year, Archer said, according to the Austin American-Statesman, that there is a cultural resistance among Latinos to the idea that "getting pregnant is a bad thing."

"If I were to go to a Hispanic community and say, 'Well, we need to get you into family planning,' they say, 'No, I want to be pregnant,'" Archer said. He later apologized for the comments, which Bush said was good enough for him.

As Health Commissioner, Archer -- son of Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas -- has cut funding for school health clinics because they offer birth control.

He previously served under Bush's father, former President George Bush, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs, where he was blasted by left-leaning members of the family-planning community in the Washington Post for "accept(ing) tax dollars to run a program he's basically trying to destroy."

Bush campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan did not sound surprised that Democrats were pushing the Houston Chronicle story, but dismissed it as an effort to smear the governor. "The Democratic Party and the Gore campaign are resorting to irresponsible scare tactics to frighten people into the voting booth," Sullivan said. "It's unfortunate that they twist and distort the truth that way. The fact is that [of the appointments] Gov. Bush has made to state boards and commissions, 52 percent have been women or minorities."

By Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is the senior White House correspondent for ABC News.

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