Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack’s commentary on language is getting big play in Boston. “Say What?” is the big, front-page headline in the Boston Herald. The tabloid quotes from a column Mrs. Vilsack wrote in 1994 for the Mount Pleasant News. In the piece, Mrs. Vilsack said she struggled to understand the speech patterns of blacks and she said southerners have “slurred speech.” Mrs. Vilsack also said she’d rather learn Polish than speak with a Jersey accent. Mrs. Vilsack spoke to a small group of reporters this afternoon in Boston, and her first response to the story was to make light of it. Mrs. Vilsack said she felt sorry for the Republican National Committee staffer who had to read through all the old columns she wrote for her hometown newspaper. As for the substance of her column, Mrs. Vilsack said she didn’t want to discuss what she termed an “attack” from Republicans and said she wouldn’t even dignify them by talking about them, but she did talk about her background as a teacher who taught language arts. “Language is what I do. I write. I teach kids about dialect. I teach kids about language. There’s nothing I can do about what they’re doing,” she said. “I’m just here to talk about my issues.” Mrs. Vilsack says she remembers writing the column, one of many she wrote over a 14-year period. Mrs. Vilsack says she was just trying to raise issues in her column that her hometown was confronting. When asked specifically about the concept of making English the official language of the state, Mrs. Vilsack declined to address it specifically.Mrs. Vilsack says she’s “not here to talk about policy,” she’s in Boston to talk about books and literacy. Mrs. Vilsack spoke to reporters after an event which celebrated a drive to collect books for Boston-area schools and hand out scholarships to underprivileged kids. Mrs. Vilsack says she can’t help it if “people take things out of context.” Mrs. Vilsack will speak at the Democratic National Convention tomorrow night in prime time about “small town values.” She rejects the idea her comments cast small town residents as small-minded. The Kerry campaign has dismissed Mrs. Vilsack’s 1994 commentary on language as “ancient” but still offered up long-time party insider Donna Brazille to defend the First Lady. Brazille, who is black, ran Al Gore’s 2000 campaign.
You are here: / / Christie Vilsack refuses to comment on her language comments