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Use of slur 'retarded' spills over into Texas governor's race

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's public criticism of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel's use of the word retarded has spilled over into the Texas governor's race.

Palin made national news this week when she posted a note on Facebook calling for Emanuel to be replaced after he called colleagues in a closed-door meeting "retarded."

"Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities -- and the people who love them -- is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking," Palin wrote.

Gov. Rick Perry's campaign confirmed Thursday that one of its consultants, David Carney, repeatedly used the same word in a conference call with KERA/Channel 13 before one of last month's Republican gubernatorial debates. The episode was reported soon after it happened by The Come and Take It Blog, an anonymous blog focused on the race.

Carney was White House political director under President George H.W. Bush and was an aide on Bob Dole's presidential campaign.

The story gained attention this week when U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's campaign brought it up ahead of Palin's scheduled campaign appearance with Perry at a Houston-area rally Sunday.

CNN reported Thursday morning that Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said it was unclear whether the incident with Carney actually happened.

"While it seems few can comment on the veracity of the conversation, Gov. Palin believes crude and demeaning name calling at the expense of others is disrespectful," Stapleton told CNN in an e-mail.

Later in the day, Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner acknowledged that the incident occurred.

"It was an unfortunate choice of words, and the Governor is extremely disappointed," Miner said in an e-mail.

Also Thursday, rock musician and conservative political activist Ted Nugent, who will perform at the rally, became part of the story.

Politico reported that Nugent, speaking about hunting to Royal Flush magazine in December, said: "It's perfect. It's untouchable on all levels. Unless you're retarded."

A request for comment from Palin's representatives was not answered Thursday.

The outrage from groups representing mentally disabled people over Emanuel's comment has brought attention to a campaign to abolish the word from everyday speech. Special Olympics runs r-word.org, a Web site devoted to ending the use of the word.

In a joint statement this week, advocates including Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver and American Association of People With Disabilities CEO Andrew Imparato said: "Our community has earned the right to be respected instead of ridiculed. We have suffered injustice for generations and we are demanding that it end."

AMAN BATHEJA, 817-390-7695

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