Rep. Don Young's ethnically charged reference to Hispanic ranch workers as "wetbacks" on an Alaska radio program was politically incorrect, but he's far from the only House member to court controversy. You can see that reflected to some degree in the overall approval rating for Congress, which Gallup puts at 13 percent.
Yet controversial comments aren't always enough to sink a candidate. Here are six representatives whose remarks made headlines and drew criticism from political foes -- and who got elected anyway.
Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Orlando, is back for his second term in Congress after a two-year hiatus. He made up for missing the 112th Congress's budget process recently with some heated rhetoric about Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee. “He wants Americans to work until they die; he wants poor people who get sick not be able to see a doctor, not to get the care they need, not to get better. He wants them to die, and he wants an America that consists of nothing but cheap labor for his corporate patrons.”
Steve King could be running for Senate in Iowa in 2014, an open seat since Sen. Tom Harkin announced his retirement. Democrats, and possible primary challengers, will have no shortage of rhetorical ammunition to use against the conservative lawmaker. For example, he couldn't resist wading into the conversation about "legitimate rape," touched off last year by former Rep. and Senate candidate Todd Akin, R-Mo,. As a cosponsor of a bill called the “No Taxpayers Funding for Abortion Act,” King was asked if exemptions should be made for victims of statutory rape or incest. "Well, I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that's been brought to me in any personal way,” he said. “I'd be open to discussion about that subject matter.”
Phil Gingrey is making headlines now for recently announcing his candidacy for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who's retiring, in Georgia. But it wasn't long ago when Gingrey grabbed some ink (and SEO headlines?) for weighing in on Akin's comments. If you need a refresher, Gingrey told the Marietta Daily Journal that Akin was "partially right" when he suggested there was a way for women who endure "legitimate rape" to "shut that whole thing down." Gingrey's comments could actually cost him politically if Karl Rove's new Conservative Victory Project, which aims to help "electable" conservatives, plays in the Peach State GOP primary. Plus there will be some competition for Gingrey. Rep. Paul Broun, who also has a history of using sharp language, is also running, and Reps. Tom Price and Jack Kingston are also reportedly considering running.
Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman has a reputation for confidently and a little stridently wading into political fights. An ardent small-government conservative, Stockman invited gun-rights activist and rocker Ted Nugent to the State of the Union this year, is being tagged as the "new Michele Bachmann," and drew criticism for calling the Violence Against Women Act "horrible" for "helping liberals." He also recently criticized the legislation for aiming to protect transgender citizens. "What really bothers — it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that — how is that a woman?” Stockman said.
Louie Gohmert, the Texas Republican, is widely known to those in Washington--and avid C-SPAN watchers—as the last House member speaking on the floor after the chamber adjourns and his colleagues leave. He's also known for his controversial speeches and positions. He recently made headlines when he confronted a Park Police officer who ticketed him for parking in a reserved space near the Lincoln Memorial. But Gohmert has also said some controversial things in his eight years in Congress. After the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Gohmert was among the first lawmakers to call for arming officials at schools. He also said during a radio interview last year that the shooting attack in Aurora, Colo., was the result of "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs."
Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican and erstwhile presidential candidate, casts herself as a constant foil to President Obama. There's nothing inherently controversial in that, but in two recent instances she suggested that 70 percent of every dollar the government intends to use for the poor actually goes to a bureaucrat and that Obama's White House includes $1.4 billion in "perks and excess." The Washington Post fact-checker awarded each of the statements four Pinocchios. "But there really aren’t enough Pinocchios for such misleading use of statistics in a major speech," wrote The Post's Glenn Kessler.