GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry caused a bit of a stir while addressing fellow contender Herman Cain during Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Addressing the former Godfather's Pizza CEO about his 999 Plan, Perry referred to the African-American candidate as "brother." Discussing the tax plan, the Texas governor said, "Herman, I love you brother, but let me tell you something, you don't have to have a big analysis to figure this thing out." Perry continued, "I'll bump plans with you brother, and we'll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again."
Reactions to Perry's comments lit up the Twittersphere. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Some Twitter commentators found the use of the word brother condescending; other thought it was folksy in a Texas kind of way. “Rick Perry needs to stop calling Herman Cain ‘brother.’#GOPdebate #racist,” read one tweet. “How come Rick Perry was calling Herman Cain ‘brother’ tonight when he didn’t use that term with any other candidate?” another user tweeted.
Comic Kathy Griffin tweeted about the moment: “Awkward. I’m waiting 4 Perry 2 say ‘jive turkey.’”
As The New York Daily News reports, even Rev. Al Sharpton weighed in, saying "It seemed to me that he was openly trying to befriend the only black man on the stage - and it was his way of trying to repair the talk about the hunting lodge."
Sharpton's "hunting lodge" comment refers to a recent controversy involving a rock bearing the word "Ni****head." The rock was on the grounds of a lodge leased by Perry, and Perry received a fair amount of negative press over the rock.
Appearing on CNN, Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan defended the Republican candidate's use of the word "brother." Sullivan explained of Perry, "He is a friendly fellow. He uses that kind of language. And he views all those folks on stage as colleagues, as fellow Republicans, and he speaks accordingly." Per CNN:
Sullivan added that Perry called Romney the same term. When former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Romney were arguing over health care at one point, Perry could be heard in the background using the word "brother" while trying to jump in on the discussion.
The Washington Post examines the possibility that religion, rather than race, may have been behind Perry's use of the word "brother." The publication reports:
It is a Sunday morning greeting that both Perry and Cain, a preacher, have likely extended and routinely received before and after church service.
It’s a term of endearment, shorthand for “brothers in Christ.”
The Post excerpts a speech that Perry recently delivered at Liberty University in which he refers to a "leading Christian Conservative" as "brother."
The Daily News elaborates:
"That's more of a folksy West Texas expression," said Matt Jones, political science professor at Houston's Rice University.
"It's also a Southern Evangelical expression, like 'Brother, let me tell you about...' like your brothers in fellowship," added Jones. "Still, it was a poor choice of words."
WATCH VIDEO OF PERRY'S COMMENTS ABOVE (via CNN)