Topeka — A Kansas legislator reposted his “RedNeck Rap” video criticizing President Barack Obama on YouTube on Friday after adding an introduction responding to critics who assailed it as racist.
Republican state Rep. Bill Otto, dressed in a jacket and tie, explains in the introduction that the ballcap he wears in the original video — calling opossum “the other dark meat” — is a reference to his own “hillbilly” heritage, not the nation’s first black president.
Otto, who represents an eastern Kansas district and lives in LeRoy, about 75 miles south of Topeka, posted the video on YouTube last month, but it came down Thursday after a fellow legislator called it as “disturbing” and suggested it was evidence of bigotry.
Otto said his adult daughters took the video down, using his passwords, because they didn’t like him being called a racist.
“I am not a racist, and I don’t like being called a racist, any more than some people like being called a communist back in the 1950s,” Otto says in his new introduction. “It wasn’t fair then, and it’s not fair now.”
But Heidi Beirich, research director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, was skeptical of Otto’s explanation.
“Look, he said ‘dark meat.’ Come on,” she said. “It’s totally racially insensitive.”
Beirich saw Otto’s video as part of ongoing criticism of the nation’s first black president that is “racially tinged.” The center, based in Montgomery, Ala., monitors hate groups and saw more than 200 reports of hate crimes in the weeks following Obama’s election.
Kansas Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, called the video “disturbing” and “outrageous.” Sonny Scroggins, leader of Bias Busters, a Kansas group, promised to organize protests at the Statehouse.
“It was just uncalled for — unprofessional,” Scroggins said Friday.
The flap over Otto’s video comes less than two months after U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, another Kansas Republican, remarked in a public forum that the GOP still was looking for “a great white hope.” She later said she wasn’t referring to Obama and didn’t know of the phrase’s past link to pre-civil-rights era racism.
Otto said he wanted to repost the video because it’s important to raise issues about Obama’s policies. In his rap, he criticizes Obama over health care, the environment, the economy and Obama’s plans to close the prison for terrorist detainees in Guantanamo Bay Cuba.
The lawmaker says in his new introduction that he’s proud the U.S. has elected its first black president and that he’s much more critical of Congress than Obama. But he also acknowledged using the word “redneck” could have given some viewers “the wrong mindset.”
“It would have been better if I had dressed up like a caveman or called it a hillbilly rap,” he said.
Otto, first elected to the Legislature in 2004, has posted videos on YouTube for about 18 months.
Earlier this year, he poked fun at then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ impending departure for Obama’s Cabinet with a parody of a country song that ended with the chorus, “You picked a fine time to leave us, Kathleen.”