Ford's response to comments: 'I meant my brethren in America'


COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC/AP) - South Carolina Sen. Robert Ford is now defending what many have called racial comments.

In a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee meeting Tuesday, Ford used the term "brothers" to describe African-Americans who are not willing to do hard work. When asked Wednesday whether the word "brothers" should have been rephrased, Ford said, "When I say brothers, I meant my brethren in America."

During Tuesday's meeting, Ford said that in South Carolina, stricter illegal immigration laws would hurt the state because blacks and whites don't work as hard as Hispanics. The Charleston Democrat provoked nervous laughter after he said "brothers" don't work as hard as Mexicans.

Ford added that "the brothers are going to find ways to take a break. Ever since this country was built, we've had somebody do the work for us."

He then said whites also don't work as hard.

Ford spoke to WCSC reporter Nicole Johnson in a phone interview Wednesday to address his comments.

[Listen to the complete phone interview with Sen. Ford. (mp3)]

"I made it clear. In fact I said blue-eye brothers, African American brothers, Chinese brothers. I made that clear. It's in the transcripts," Ford said.

During the discussion on illegal immigration reform, Ford said he was the only person in the meeting who believes "Mexicans have the right to be in this country."

Ford then continued to explain that throughout history there have always been immigrant groups who moved to America, willing to do hard work.

"Starting with the pilgrims when they came to America they brought with them indentured servants, people to do the hard work," Ford explained.

"Right after that they brought in slavery for 300 years, African slaves 300 years in our country. Right after slavery ended we brought in Chinese workers to build railroads, and that lasted for maybe 35 years," Ford continued. "Once they became citizens the next group of people we brought in were Eastern Europeans to work in the industrial industry in this country, and now it's the Mexicans' chance to become American citizens. They are doing the hardcore work."

Ford says even if the country allowed Mexicans to become citizens, "Right after they become Americanized, we're probably going to have to bring in some more workers to do the hardcore work."

The executive director of the state GOP called on Ford to apologize Tuesday. The leader of the state NAACP called Ford's wording unfortunate and said everyone has positive and negative traits.

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