GOP jumps on Kanjorski ‘minorities’ comments

House Oversight Committee member Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democrat, questions former AIG head Hank Greenberg, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 2, 2009, during the committee's hearing. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)House Oversight Committee member Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Democrat, questions former AIG head Hank Greenberg, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 2, 2009, during the committee’s hearing. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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Already locked in a tight re-election race, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski did not help his chances with comments Wednesday implying minorities are not “good American people.”

“We’re giving relief to people that I deal with in my office every day now, unfortunately,” Mr. Kanjorski said during deliberations Wednesday between House and Senate negotiators over the pending financial reform bill.

“Because of the longevity of this recession, these are people — and they’re not minorities and they’re not defective and they’re not all the things you’d like to insinuate that these programs are about — these are average, good American people,” he added.

Conservative websites have already begun highlighting the televised remarks, recorded by the C-SPAN cameras and viewable on YouTube.

Mr. Kanjorski, who chairs the House Financial Services subcommittee overseeing financial markets, is seeking a 14th term in the state’s 11th Congressional District, which includes Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and the Poconos region.

He faces a rematch with Hazelton Mayor Louis J. Barletta, a Republican whom he narrowly defeated in 2008.

The region is a Democratic stronghold, with a strong union presence held over from its once-prosperous coal-mining industry. The population is roughly 95 percent white and 3 percent black with Hispanics and other minorities making up the remaining 2 percent.

Republicans moved promptly to highlight Mr. Kanjorski’s remarks and demand an apology as the congressman’s staff attempted to clarify the comments.

“Paul Kanjorski’s candid moment reveals a mentality that goes against American values and traditions,” said Tory Mazzola, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman. “The fact that he does not believe minorities are ‘average, good American people’ uncovers a harsh inequity that has no place today, never mind at the seat of government. Paul Kanjorski owes an apology to every hard-working, average American — no matter what their ethnicity — because his comments smack of arrogance and represent an out-of-touch way of thinking that is an injustice to everyone.”

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania also demanded an apology from Mr. Kanjorski.

“I find congressman Kanjorski’s remarks offensive and he should apologize immediately,” said Renee Amoore, the party’s deputy chairman. “These comments are unacceptable and have no place in our society and especially in Congress.”

Kanjorski spokeswoman Abigail McDonough said the congressman was fighting for government programs to help those hit by the recession and trying to end insinuations that people seeking such assistance are not looking for jobs.

“As congressman Kanjorski stated, these programs are meant to help people and families throughout the country who are unable to afford basic necessities, including those in the congressman’s district,” Ms. McDonough said. “Anyone trying to politicize this issue clearly doesn’t get it. Congressman Kanjorski is fighting for all Americans who are struggling. Any statement saying otherwise is grossly misinformed.  The full video clip, rather than an edited version, speaks for itself and doesn’t take the Congressman’s remarks out of context.”

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