Spratt denounces his spokesman's Osama bin Laden remark

09/03/2010 12:00 AM

10/02/2010 11:03 PM

U.S. Rep. John Spratt on Friday condemned a comment from his campaign spokesman that invoked the name of Osama bin Laden to make a point about Republicans in the 5th Congressional District.

"Wayne Wingate does not speak for me in saying that there are voters who would vote Republican even if the candidate were Osama Bin Laden," Spratt said in a prepared statement. "Though made in jest, it is a terrible attempt at humor, which is offensive and insulting and in no way reflects my views about voters in the 5th Congressional District.

"From the time I first ran, I have enjoyed support among Republicans, and I would never make such a comparison. I disagree with and denounce his remarks, and apologize to anyone offended."

In a story published this week in The Free Times weekly newspaper of Columbia, Wingate is quoted as saying, "If Osama bin Laden ran in this district as a Republican, he would get 38 to 40 percent of the vote in any election year. This is a very Republican district. So you've got that plus this tea party angst against any incumbent in the world right now."

Wingate will remain in his position as campaign communications director, campaign manager Wilson Brown said.

Polls show a tightening race between Spratt and Mick Mulvaney, a state senator from Indian Land who has built his campaign around opposition to health care reform, bank bailouts and President Obama's stimulus package.

The Mulvaney campaign declined to comment on the issue.

On Friday, York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall said Spratt's response was sufficient.

"I definitely accept his apology," McCall said. "I would hope others would do the same. For myself and the majority of York County Republicans, we will accept his apology and move on to the issues that matter."

Republicans seized on Wingate's remarks one day earlier, issuing a flurry of statements that demanded a condemnation from Spratt.

Wingate made his own apology after being contacted by The Herald on Thursday night. He said the story in The Free Times quoted him accurately.

A longtime Rock Hill businessman and former board chairman for the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Wingate joined Spratt's campaign staff this summer. Previously, he owned Durango Bagel coffee shop, a favorite spot for locals to catch up on politics and local happenings.

Wingate said he was attempting to make a point about the 5th District's conservative bent. The comment was made during a walk through downtown York's Summerfest last weekend, according to the Free Times story.

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