SHOCKER: Rep. Rangel Calls Palin 'Disabled'
Embattled Politician: It's Laughable That GOP VP Nominee Bases Foreign Policy On Being Able To See Russia
Republicans Infuriated; Congressman Tries To Take Words Back
Marcia Kramer NEW YORK (CBS) ―
Already under fire for his tax troubles, Manhattan Congressman Charles Rangel really put his foot in his mouth on Friday.
In a CBS 2 HD exclusive interview, Rep. Rangel called Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin "disabled."
The question was simple: Why are the Democrats so afraid of Palin and her popularity?
The answer was astonishing.
"You got to be kind to the disabled," Rangel said.
That's right. The chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee called Palin disabled -- even when CBS 2 HD called him on it.
CBS 2 HD: "You got to be kind to the disabled?"
CBS 2 HD: "She's disabled?"
Rangel: "There's no question about it politically. It's a nightmare to think that a person's foreign policy is based on their ability to look at Russia from where they live."
Later Friday, Rangel issued a statement saying "disabled" wasn't the word he meant to use.
"Governor Palin is an obviously healthy person who in no way fits the description of disabled. I meant to say then, and I am saying now, that she entered the campaign with a disadvantage in the area of foreign policy," Rangel said in a statement.
"Any inference that my words were in any connected to her son, Trig, who was born with Down syndrome, is a real stretch -- and, I would have to think -- a way to make political points out of my poor choice of words," he added.
Republicans think Rangel's comments are insulting as well as shocking.
"Charlie Rangel's comments are clearly disgraceful," Rep. Peter King, R-Long Island, said. "This is just another liberal Democrat who can't accept an independent woman running for president."
King, who is co-chair of the McCain-Palin campaign in New York, watched Rangel's comments with CBS 2 HD. He was particularly upset because Palin's 4-month-old son, Trig, is disabled. He has Down syndrome.
"We should be sensitive to her or any woman who has a child or family member who has any affliction at all," King said. "And so to use the word disabled in the context of a female candidate for vice president who has a child who is disabled really is wrong. Charlie owes her and the entire disabled community and apology."
Advocates for the disabled are also upset.
"It makes me feel as if he's trying to put her down, trying to say she's not good for the presidency or the vice presidency," said Michael Imperiale of Disabled In Action Of Metropolitan N.Y.
"A disabled president ran this country. He was disabled. His name was Roosevelt."
A spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign also piled on, saying that this kind of rhetoric has no place in politics.
Rangel for weeks has been embroiled in controversy over his failure to report taxes on income from a beach house, use of three rent-stabilized apartments in his home district of Harlem, and using official stationery to try to drum up private donations for a college center named after the congressman. On Friday he reporting paying $10,800 in back taxes and said in an open letter to constituents that Republicans were waging a "guerrilla war" against him.