A.B. in the News

Local Press Hammers Jon Bruning For Comparing Welfare Recipients To Raccoons

Over the weekend, American Bridge caught Nebraksa Attorney General and Republican Senate candidate Jon Bruning with his foot in his mouth. During a speech at Heartland Liberty Fest, Bruning compared welfare recipients to scavenging raccoons.

Not surprisingly, the offensive comments are not going over well in Nebraska. Yesterday, the Omaha World-Herald ran a front page story titled “Bruning Welfare slam draws flak.” And last night, local television news stations continued to pound him over the remarks. Below you’ll find just two of the many segments devoted to the flap, from NBC local affiliates WOWT in Omaha and KNOP in North Platte,  CBS affiliate KOLN in Lincoln, and Fox affiliate KPTM in Omaha. (transcripts after the jump).

Transcript of WOWT report:

BRUNING: Now we have this massive, bloated federal government that frankly is going to put our great country at risk.

ANCHOR: Political rhetoric is nothing new, but the choice of words Attorney General Jon Bruning used during a weekend function to describe those on welfare have left many in the state with a few choice words of their own. It’s tonight’s six o-clock lead. Comments made by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning are starting to draw a lot of heat. Bruning is looking to be the Republican Senate candidate in 2012. Last weekend, Bruning in a speech compared welfare recipients to raccoons. John Chapman is live with the fallout.

REPORTER: Bruning was in Papillion, talking about environmental regulations when he made the reference to raccoons going after beetles in a jar at a road construction site.

BRUNING: Now the farmer walks in with his video camera one night, because the raccoons figure out the beetles are in the bucket. And it’s l ike grapes in a jar for the raccoons. They’re not stupid, they’re going to do the easy way if we make it easy for ’em, just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’re going to take the easy route.

REPORTER: He actually said it out loud. Attorney General Jon Bruning comparing welfare recipients to raccoons. For Teela Mickles and other African-Americans we talked to, the raccoon reference brought back visions of an insulting anti-black caricature that is dehumanizing, portrayed as idle, lazy and inarticulate.

TEELA MICKLES, COMPASSION IN ACTION: I think it was more degrading than a shiftless lazy individual. I think it was very degrading because it almost seemed like a shiftless lazy individual had an intellect and a strategy to get by rather than individuals who are really struggling to take care of their families and survive.

REPORTER: Mickles works with incarcerated and disadvantaged people. Mickles says Brunings comments come at a bad time and takes a shot at people both black and white who are dealing with a down economy.

TEELA MICKLES: This is not the time, when you have many individuals who are forced out of their jobs, they’re laid off, they worked hard to get those positions, and now they’re off ,and they’re recipients of the system because they were forced into it.

REPORTER: Bruning is looking to replace Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in washington in 2012. The Nelson campaign responded to Bruning’s statement in an e-mail from campaign manager Paul Johnson, saying in part, “Mr. Bruning’s comment reflect his willingness to say or do anything in order to advance his own career. Tearing other people down in order to build himself up is not the Nebraska way.”

BRUNING: It may have been an inartful way to say it, but the reality is, spending is out of control in Washington. I mean, we have a government that this year will run a $1.6 trillion deficit. So whether you like the way I said it or not, the reality is, we have to cut spending in Washington. We’ve got to reduce the size and scope of government, and that really is the point.

Transcript of KNOP report:

ANCHOR: Nebraska Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Jon Bruning compared welfare recipients to raccoons, and now he regrets it. Jon Bruning’s comments were made Saturday at the Heartland Liberty Fest in Papillion. The event was co-sponsored by the Libertarian Party, Americans for Prosperity and the Nebraska Republican Party. His statements were videotaped for a liberal organization, American Bridge 21st Century, and posted on YouTube. Bruning explained how biologists trapped the American burying beetle and relocated them to save a roads project.

BRUNING: The biologist goes out in the morning and grabs the beetles, and they take them two miles down and they gently let them go so that the beetles will survive. And some farmer, he’s got a little more sense than EPA or whoever it is, and the farmer walks out there with his video camera one night because the raccoons figure out the beetles are in the bucket, and it’s like grapes in a gar for the raccoons. They’re not stupid, they’re going to do the easy way if we make it easy for ’em, just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’re going to take the easy route.

ANCHOR: Bruning Campaign Manager Trent Fellers says Bruning’s remark was “an inartful statement and one Jon regrets making.”

Transcript of KOLN report:

ANCHOR: U.S. Senate candidate and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning is under fire for comparing welfare recipients to raccoons. The remark was made during a campaign speech in Papillion this weekend. It was video taped and posted online, fueling a debate across the state. 10-11’s Stephani Ruiz spoke with him so he could give his side of the story.

REPORTER: A comparison during a campaign speech has Jon Bruning in the hot seat. He was criticizing an effort to protect endangered beetles by luring them into a bucket after a farmer found raccoons feasting on the beetles. Bruning then compared those raccoons to welfare dependents.

BRUNING: and some farmer, he’s got a little more sense than the biologists for the EPA or whoever it is, the farmer walks out there with his video camera one night because the raccoons figure out the beetles are in the bucket, and it’s like grapes in a jar, the raccoons. They’re not stupid, they’re gonna do the easy way if we’re gonna make it easy for them, just like welfare recipients all across America.

REPORTER: That comparison insulted several Nebraska voters. Bruning’s campaign manager says he regrets it, but the Attorney General stands by his message.

BRUNING: Well, listen it may have been an inartful way to say it, but the reality is, spending is out of control in Washington. I mean, we have a government that this year will run a 1.6 trillion dollar deficit.

TEELA MICKLES: I don’t know how you would raise more money or have more following when you’re attacking the people that are going to be voting for you.

REPORTER: Teela Mickles has worked with the disadvantaged for years. She says comparing welfare recipients to night time bandits is unfair.

TEELA MICKLES: I think a lot of individuals right now are kind of like put in the same category. Some people are experiencing things they’ve never experienced before. I don’t see how that’s going to give you more votes when you’re hurting people who are already hurting.

REPORTER: We asked Bruning how he would respond to those people, and he dodged the answer several times.

REPORTER VOICEOVER: So you don’t have any response to the actual words that you used to describe those people who were on welfare?

BRUNING: We have to cut the size and scope of government.

ANCHOR: Jon Bruning’s campaign manager says, “As Attorney General, Jon’s been a strong supporter of welfare reform and giving welfare recipients a hand up instead of just a hand out.”

Transcript of KPTM report:

BRUNING: and it’s like grapes in a jar. Raccoons they’re not stupid, they’ll do the easy way if we make it easy for them, just like welfare recipients across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’ll take the easy route.”

VOICEOVER: Those were the comments Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning made Saturday at the Heartland Liberty Fest in Papillion. The organization American Bridge 21st Century sent us the video. Bruning’s Senate campaign says he regrets comparing welfare recipients to raccoons and calls it an “inartful statement.” His campaign manager says “Jon’s been a strong supporter of welfare reform and giving welfare recipients a hand up and not just a hand out.”