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Don Young Apologizes Amid Backlash from Congressional Leaders

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Alaska Congressman Don Young apologized Friday for his use of racial slurs in reference to Latinos during an interview, saying his comments were "a poor choice of words." Young's remarks prompted a strong backlash from his fellow Republican Party members Friday as both House and Senate leaders demanded an apology.

"I apologize for the insensitive term I used during an interview in Ketchikan, Alaska. There was no malice in my heart, or intent to offend; it was a poor choice of words," Young said in a statement. "That word, and the negative attitudes that come with it, should be left in the 20th century, and I'm sorry that this has shifted our focus away from comprehensive immigration reform."

Young used the derogatory term “wetbacks” to refer to Latino workers on his father’s ranch in an interview Thursday. His comments came only a few weeks after the Republican National Committee released a party “autopsy” report on the presidential election that outlined revitalization strategies, which included prioritizing Hispanic voter outreach.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was the first to condemn the congressman’s words:

“Migrant workers come to America looking for opportunity and a way to provide a better life for their families. They do not come to this country to hear ethnic slurs and derogatory language from elected officials. The comments used by Rep. Young do nothing to elevate our party, political discourse or the millions who come here looking for economic opportunity,” Cornyn said in a statement.

House Speaker John Boehner followed quickly with a statement of his own: “Congressman Young’s remarks were offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. I don’t care why he said it -- there’s no excuse and it warrants an immediate apology.”

Representative Joaquin Castro tweeted:

“@castro4congress: Congressman Young, your words are disgusting.” @repdonyoung"

    — Joaquin Castro(@JoaquinCastrotx) March 29, 2013

Sen. John McCain also responded online:

"Don Young’s comments were offensive and have no place in our Party or in our nation’s discourse. He should apologize immediately."

    — John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 29, 2013

RNC Chair, Reince Priebus released this statement:

“The words used by Representative Young emphatically do not represent the beliefs of the Republican Party. As I have continued to say, everyone in this country deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Our party represents freedom and opportunity for every American and a beacon of hope to those seeking liberty throughout the world. Offensive language and ethnic slurs have no place in our public discourse.”

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi called for an apology from the congressman.

"Congressman Young should fully apologize for deeply offensive comments that were not appropriate in his youth or now."

    — Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) March 29, 2013

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