Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Sunday criticized rival Rick Perry as being insensitive for not acting sooner in removing the racially offensive name from a rock outside the Texas hunting camp his family once leased.
Perry's campaign countered that Perry's father painted over the rock to cover the name, Niggerhead, soon after he began leasing the site in the early 1980s. While the Texas governor later joined the lease, neither he nor his family ever controlled, owned or managed the property, the campaign said in a statement.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the origins of the name were unclear and there was no definitive account for when and how the name first appeared on a large, flat rock at the gated entrance to the Throckmorton County property. In recent photos the word is mostly obscured by white paint, the Post reported.
Cain, the only black Republican in the presidential race, accused Perry of insensitivity when asked about the report on Sunday news programs.
"Since Gov. Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off of that rock and renaming the place," he told ABC's "This Week."
"Yes, it was painted over," he said. "But how long ago was it painted over? So I'm still saying that it is a sign of insensitivity."
Perry told the Post that the word on the rock is an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world."
"My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984," Perry told the newspaper in a written response to questions. "This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit."
Perry added: "Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over."
The Post reported that people interviewed for its story remember seeing the rock with the name at various points during the 1980s and 1990s, the period in which the Perrys had the hunting lease and Perry brought friends to the site. Some of those interviewed said they worried that it could become a political liability for Perry.
Ray Sullivan, communications director for the Perry campaign, said the governor's father, Ray Perry, leased the hunting rights in the early 1980s and that Rick Perry was on the lease from 1997 to 2007. Rick Perry has not visited the property since December 2006, Sullivan said.
"Mr. Cain is wrong about the Perry family's quick action to eliminate the word on the rock, but is right the word written by others long ago is insensitive and offensive. That is why the Perrys took quick action to cover and obscure it," Sullivan said.