Politics & Government

Rep. Spratt isn't laughing at spokesman's bin Laden joke

U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a Democrat, today denounced comments his campaign spokesman made, invoking the name of Osama bin Laden to make a point about conservative voters in the Fifth Congressional District.

"Wayne Wingate does not speak for me in saying that there are voters who would vote Republican even if the candidate were Osama Bin Laden," Spratt said in a prepared statement. "Though made in jest, it is a terrible attempt at humor, which is offensive and insulting and in no way reflects my views about voters in the Fifth Congressional District.

"From the time I first ran, I have enjoyed support among Republicans, and I would never make such a comparison. I disagree with and denounce his remarks, and apologize to anyone offended."

In a story published this week in The Free Times weekly newspaper of Columbia, Wingate, Spratt's communications director, is quoted as saying:

"If Osama bin Laden ran in this district as a Republican, he would get 38 to 40 percent of the vote in any election year. This is a very Republican district. So you've got that, plus this tea party angst against any incumbent in the world right now."

Wingate issued an apology after being contacted by The Herald Thursday night. He said the story in The Free Times quoted him accurately.

"I am deeply sorry if anyone was offended by it," he said. "If it detracts in any way from John Spratt, I regret saying it."

Republicans at the local and national level quickly seized on the remark in a flurry of statements issued Thursday night.

A spokesman for Spratt's Republican challenger, state Sen. Mick Mulvaney, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Indian Land businessman is running to unseat Spratt, a 28-year incumbent Democrat from York.

Speaking to The Herald, Wingate said he was attempting to make a point about the Fifth District's conservative bent. He said he could understand how the comment could be interpreted as poor taste.

To read the complete article, visit www.heraldonline.com.