Earl Butz, agriculture secretary sunk by racial joke, dies at 98

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Richard Goldstein in NYT:

Earl L. Butz, who orchestrated a major change in federal farm policy as secretary of agriculture during the 1970s but came to be remembered more for a vulgar racial comment that brought about his resignation during the 1976 presidential election race, died Saturday in Washington. Mr. Butz, who lived in West Lafayette, Ind., was 98.

Serving under President Richard M. Nixon and his successor, Gerald R. Ford, Mr. Butz was a forceful, sharp-tongued figure who engineered legislation sharply reducing federal subsidies for farmers. He was the best known secretary of agriculture since Henry A. Wallace in the Depression days... Mr. Butz was an important source of political support in the Midwest farm belt for the Nixon and Ford administrations. But he was criticized by Democrats in Congress who viewed him as the voice of “agribusiness,” the corporate agricultural interests, at the expense of small farmers and consumers....

Mr. Ford had been counting on Mr. Butz to help win the Midwestern farm vote when he ran for a full term against Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Mr. Butz campaigned strenuously in that race. But his career in Washington suddenly ended a month before the election. On a plane trip following the Republican National Convention in August, accompanied by, among others, John W. Dean 3d, the former White House counsel, Mr. Butz made a remark ...

TIME magazine takes over:

Butz started by telling a dirty joke involving intercourse between a dog and a skunk. When the conversation turned to politics, singer Pat Boone, a right-wing Republican, asked Butz why the party of Lincoln was not able to attract more blacks. The Secretary responded with a line so obscene and insulting to blacks that it forced him out of the Cabinet last week and jolted the whole Ford campaign. Butz said that "the only thing the coloreds are looking for in life are tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit."

After some indecision, Dean used the line in Rolling Stone, attributing it to an unnamed Cabinet officer. But New Times magazine enterprisingly sleuthed out Butz's identity by checking the itineraries of all Cabinet members.

My favorite response some wit made to the 'joke':

"Isn't that what everyone wants?"

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 20:35 (6 years ago) Permalink

i think it's a fairly commonplace line, as in "i just need...". terry southern attributed it to slim pickens, pre-1976.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 20:38 (6 years ago) Permalink

3 hots and a cot

sexyDancer, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 20:47 (6 years ago) Permalink

wonder if he and ron paul ever hung out

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 20:52 (6 years ago) Permalink

I've always identified butz with being a big part of nixon's efforts to completely dismantle the new deal and helping us all get on the corn diet in the process, I didn't even know about the racist thing actually. anyway, fuck you, Butz, see you around.

El Tomboto, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 20:54 (6 years ago) Permalink

lol butz sounds like butts!

musically, Tuesday, 5 February 2008 23:27 (6 years ago) Permalink

this is not the first time i have heard of an e buttez getting sunk by his own jokes.

estela, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 00:02 (6 years ago) Permalink

tight pussy, loose shoes

wow that Alex Chilton album title makes total sense to me now

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 00:09 (6 years ago) Permalink

there's an SNL ketch riffing on this line on the 2nd season box, which i spookily just watched this weekend.

stevie, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 00:16 (6 years ago) Permalink

Earl Butz was just a good old boy from Indiana, which was a stronghold of the KKK in the 1920s. Indiana also produced Kurt Vonnegut and Ernie Pyle, two old boys who really were good. But Earl's kind of good old boy? Not so good.

Aimless, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 01:33 (6 years ago) Permalink

I know Butz mainly from reading Wendell Berry who completely loathes/ed him

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 06:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, SNL riffed on it for like three Weekend Updates in a row!

Whiney G. Weingarten, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 06:12 (6 years ago) Permalink

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying,
But I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no.

I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing,
Oh, if I'd only seen that the joke was on me.

gershy, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 06:22 (6 years ago) Permalink

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Sn-A7D76o

Three Word Username, Wednesday, 6 February 2008 07:54 (6 years ago) Permalink


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