An Iowa state representative accused of using a gay slur last month now says you can’t say anything about gay people without having it taken as a slur.
At an event over the weekend in Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines, a woman questioned longtime Republican Rep. Ralph Watts about his use of the term “red rider” to describe Bryce Smith, the Democratic challenger he defeated in November, reports news site North Iowa Today. Smith is gay.
Watts said he didn’t know it was a gay slur, adding, “Anything you say anymore about a gay is a gay slur,” as shown in video posted on the site.
In February, after he was caught on video using the term at a forum in his hometown of Adel, Watts said he was actually using a homonym, “Red Ryder,” the brand of BB gun coveted by Ralphie, the main character in the movie A Christmas Story. The brand was named for a hero of popular Western comic books and films.
"Red Ryder BB gun is the thing that falls in the category of a kid's first gun, and it's used to teach kids how to use a weapon and shows them responsibility and shows they’re capable of using something more powerful," Watts told The Des Moines Register last month. "With some of the things that have happened, the constant sniping and constant obscure criticism shows me that he hasn’t progressed past the Red Ryder stage. ... I hadn't heard about the slur until he brought it up." Smith responded that no matter what Watts meant, he shouldn’t engage in name-calling.
Now LGBT group One Iowa is denouncing Watts’s latest comment. “This is an unacceptably dismissive and unapologetic response to a valid question about his previous use of a slur,” executive director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel said in a prepared statement, North Iowa Today reports. “Words have real power to hurt and suppress marginalized communities, and Rep. Watts is failing to take responsibility for his words and shifting blame to the very community his words are hurting. Further, his use of the phrase ‘a gay’ is homophobic and dehumanizing. We ask him to apologize for his actions.” There’s no record of a response from Watts yet.