Politics

FLASHBACK: Tom Vilsack’s Wife Wrote ‘Inflammatory Columns’ About Minority Groups

'I am fascinated at the way some African-Americans speak to each other'

Christie Vilsack and Tom Vilsack
Christie Vilsack speaks with husband Tom Vilsack by her side / AP

The wife of Tom Vilsack, Hillary Clinton's potential running mate, has a history of inflammatory comments about minorities’ speech patterns.

Christie Vilsack, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in Iowa in 2012, has been criticized for what the Boston Herald called "inflammatory columns" that "derided blacks, southerners and easterners as bad speakers because she couldn't understand them."

"I am fascinated at the way some African-Americans speak to each other in an English I struggle to understand, then switch to standard English when the situation requires," Vilsack wrote in a 1994 column.

She was also critical of the way people in New Jersey and Pennsylvania speak, saying she would "rather learn to speak Polish" than speak like them.

"Later, on the boardwalk, I heard mothers calling to their children, ‘I'll meet yoose here after the movie," she wrote. "The only way I can speak like residents of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania is to let my jaw drop an inch and talk with my lips in an `O' like a fish. I'd rather learn to speak Polish."

In another column following the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, Vilsack said that people in the south have "language problems."

The comments were highlighted by the Boston Herald in 2004 due to Vilsack's involvement with John Kerry's presidential campaign. She was credited with helping Kerry win the Iowa caucus and was given a speaking slot during that year's Democratic National Convention. Tom Vilsack was Iowa's governor at the time.

The Kerry campaign brushed off the inflammatory comments about African Americans as "ancient clips."

Tom Vilsack, who has been Obama’s agriculture secretary since 2009, was described by Washington Post reporter James Hohmann as a "low-risk choice" for Clinton who could help her in Iowa and with other rural voters who typically do not vote for Democrats.

Vilsack has long been a Clinton ally. He briefly ran for president in 2007 but dropped out to endorse Clinton.

Vilsack has made the rounds on MSNBC, appearing for interviews on Meet the Press on Wednesday afternoon and on Morning Joe and Andrea Mitchell Reports on Thursday.

The Clinton campaign did not respond to an email about Christie Vilsack's comments.