Ford: No offense intended in remarks about laborers

Robert Ford

COLUMBIA -- Charleston Democratic Sen. Robert Ford said Wednesday he needs to learn to communicate his thoughts better, because it was not his intent to be hurtful when he spoke about why the state needs immigrant labor.

Ford, a five-term senator, said his comments during a Senate panel debate on illegal immigration Tuesday were intended to be a historical reflection of American workers.

"I didn't mean to hurt nobody -- nobody," Ford said.

Ford said "brothers," whom he referred to as black men, and "blue-eyed, pale-skinned" men did not work as hard as "Mexicans."

Ford's comments created a big stir among black leaders, as well as Republicans and Democrats. Many called on him to apologize.

Ford said his comments taken in full context were not offensive. His complete remarks are available here.

Ford noted his background as a Civil Rights leader, trained by Martin Luther King Jr.

He said he has spent his life devoted to peaceful causes.

The point of his remarks was to oppose illegal-immigration legislation. The matter is best left up to the federal government, he said.

Immigrants have carried out the hard labor that built America, including Chinese who worked to build the railroads and the Irish who toiled during the industrial revolution. Hispanics are the country's newest immigrants, he said. Other ethnic groups have "already paid their dues."

"We need those workers here," Ford said.

In his own words

For Wednesday's editions, The Post and Courier relied on initial published accounts of comments Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, made about the work ethics of Americans. The quote was slightly off.

Here's our transcription of the remarks from audio of the meeting:

"I know, I know brothers -- when I say brothers I'm talking about right now based on race. I'm talking about black guys. They're not going to do that work at Boeing, with all that dirty stuff to be hauled, to build that plant. Ain't no brothers going to do that. Not like a Mexican will."