Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, a frontrunner to win the GOP nomination against Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), compared poor people to scavenging racoons in a speech this week.
In a video captured by the liberal group, American Bridge 21st Century, Bruning makes the comparison as part of an elaborate metaphor originally focused on environmental regulations. He describes a requirement that workers at a construction project gather up endangered beetles by luring them into a bucket with a dead rat in order to release them elsewhere. But the plan is thwarted when hungry raccoons then eat them straight out of the rat-infested bucket. Which, according to Bruning, is a perfect image to illustrate how welfare recipients receive their benefits.
“The raccoons figured out the beetles are in the bucket,” Bruning said. “And its like grapes in a jar. The raccoons - they’re not stupid, they’re gonna do the easy way if we make it easy for them. Just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’re gonna take the easy route.”
The incident recalls similar language from South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer (R), who apologized in January 2010 for saying in a speech on America’s “culture of dependency” that he learned “as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed.”
Correction: An earlier piece referred to Nelson as “retiring.” He is running for re-election.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.