AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry demanded Thursday that Democratic challenger Bill White apologize for what he said were racially insensitive remarks, but White stood behind his comments and accused the Republican incumbent of playing racial politics.
After delivering addresses at a convention of Texas broadcasters, the two opponents appeared before reporters to sharpen their differences on several issues, including financial disclosures and debate prospects.
Perry, responding to reporters' questions, continued a Republican assault on White for his statements to a group of African-American business leaders in Dallas that "We need a governor who's a servant, as opposed to Rick Perry, who wants to be treated as master."
Perry said, "Injecting that kind of language into the race is not appropriate, and he should apologize to the people of Texas."
White said he has repeatedly used the master-servant theme in speeches ranging from party gatherings to Rotary Club meetings. "I do think that government should be the servant and not the master," he said. "It's a deeply conservative philosophy that I have. If anybody's ever offended by anything that I say, I apologize to them now and in advance."
Asked about Perry's comments, White responded: "He's just trying to play racial politics. That's not fair."
State Republicans and Perry's campaign organization seized on the remarks in e-mail blasts Wednesday after they were reported in a Dallas Morning News article about the event in south Dallas. White's allies in the African-African community said they saw nothing inappropriate.
Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams of Arlington, the highest-ranking African-American official in state government, called White's remarks "simply ignorant and offensive" and said they conjured up images of slavery. But state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway, D-Dallas, who hosted the event, said Williams "should know better."
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