Kansas lawmaker’s immigration comments draw gasps

Kansas Republican lawmaker Virgil Peck suggested it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled -- with hunters shooting from helicopters.

Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck said he was just joking Monday.

The Tyro Republican suggested it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled — with hunters shooting from helicopters.

“Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,” said Peck.  Click here to listen to Rep. Peck’s comments.

Bad joke Virgil.  Racist joke Virgil.

I wonder if Mrs. Peck approves? Or your family and friends?   My guess is that most people aren’t laughing.

A century ago, some folks thought it was funny when they suggested lynching blacks in America. It wasn’t funny then. It’s not funny now.

Rep. Peck’s comments came during a discussion by the Kansas House Appropriations Committee on state spending for controlling the state’s feral swine population. According to the Kansas City Star, several people in the hearing room gasped after Peck’s remarks. Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades later said: “I know that the preface to your question was an attempt at humor, but I would ask that in the future you refrain from comments that could be deemed inappropriate.”

Afterwards, Peck told the Lawrence Journal World he was just joking, but that his comment did reflect frustration with the problem of illegal immigration.  Added Peck: “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person.”

I’m guessing there are quite a few folks from southeast Kansas who would disagree with that comment too.

Peck said he didn’t expect further controversy over his comment. “I think it’s over,” he said.

As of Monday evening, Rep. Peck’s comments were circulating nationally. They’ve drawn criticism from groups like the Somos Republicans in Arizona.  Somos Republicans call themselves the largest Hispanic Republican grassroots organization in the nation and are “pro immigration reform. In a press release this evening group commented:

“There are people advocating to shoot the heads off of “illegal Mexicans”, and Peck’s behavior is extremely violent and inappropriate ..We are sick and tired of the bigotry from state legislators who would rather advocate for violence and shooting people than to focus on reasonable solutions. “

Closer to home Topeka Capital-Journal blogger Tim Carpenter gave his two-cents worth;

“If honestly framed as a joke, this legislator is not ready for a stand-up comedy gig. Certainly, his subsequent explanation stands as the type of sweeping analysis that fails to reflect nuanced reality of public opinion.”

I don’t think this is the last you’ve heard about your immigration comments Virgil.  After all, it’s one thing to say something like this in private.  It’s another thing to say it when you’re an elected official.

My bet-  That you’ll realize the political damage this might cause your career and make an apology sometime soon.  But, will you really mean it?

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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4 Responses to Kansas lawmaker’s immigration comments draw gasps

  1. jack says:

    Sorry, Mr. Peck’s remarks were not in the least bit racist! The remarks may have been many things to many people, but immigrants, legal or illegal, are not a race. The analogy of a run away population explosion through illegal immigration and the cultural norms associated with the largest immigrant ethnic population, should not be dismissed merely because the comments of Mr. Peck were over the top. He has, for better or worse, kept awareness on a topic which may determine the future of our country.

    • barneymccoy says:

      Dear Jack-

      Thanks for writing.

      I’m not sure what part of Peck’s comments are not racist. By definition a racist is someone who:

      1. believes races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others.
      2. who’s abusive or aggressive behavior towards members of another race is based on the belief above.

      It was fairly clear that Peck singled out Hispanics in his comments. That’s why several Hispanic organizations and individuals have been critical of Peck’s insensitive remarks. That includes the National Council of La Raza, Somos Republicans, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Latino Information Network of Kansas.
      Yesterday, the Kansas Hispanic and Latino American Affairs Commission issued a statement condemning Peck’s comments. Among other things, the statement said”

      “Not only is it inappropriate for an elected official to make a racist comment in a public forum, but such aggressive remarks appear to advocate violent means to a political issue.”

      Others have called Peck a “bigot” for his words this week and said what Peck said risked encouraging others to commit violent acts against undocumented immigrants.

  2. jack says:

    Hi Barney,


    I would have thought perhaps the term bigot would have been more correct than racist, but i grew up in Ohio and race/racist applied almost exclusively to defining a person by skin color combined with biological ancestry, not ethnicity .
    I did do a search and see where ethnicity is now included in some definitions of race for some reason, so i understand your use of the word.

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