Ahem. Correction.

As you know Rep. Murtha called us all a bunch of racists not too long ago:

“There is no question that western Pennsylvania is a racist area,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be mad at him anymore.

Murtha said the history of southwestern Pennsylvania is teeming with racism. “This whole area, years ago, was really redneck,” he told WTAE-TV Pittsburgh.

See?  We’re not racists, we’re just a bunch of rednecks who can’t look beyond the color of a man’s skin.

Got it.

Also, I’d like to clarify that when I called Rep. Murtha a “bloviating nincompoop with delusions of relevancy” what I REALLY meant was “asswipe.”


  1. Maria
    October 21, 2008 8:50 am

    Murtha is the representative for the area where my parents live. My mom thinks he’s senile and needs to be put in a home. He’s said some pretty insulting stuff over the years, and yet people still vote for him. I don’t get it.

  2. JP
    October 21, 2008 9:07 am

    I know it is just unbelievable that someboody could make the claim that western Pa is racist. Just unbelieviable. How could he ever come up with such a carzy idea like that? http://www.splcenter.org/intel/map/index.jsp?S=PA&m=4

  3. susie
    October 21, 2008 9:09 am

    He may be an asswipe, but that doesn’t make him wrong.

  4. Miss Lee
    October 21, 2008 9:12 am

    ..He may be saying what the media wants to hear, but it doesn’t make him right.

  5. Still A. Dad
    October 21, 2008 9:12 am

    Murtha is one of the House’s largeest providers of pork for his district. He has funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to his hometown.(Johnstown) That’s why he keeps getting elected.

  6. Miss Lee
    October 21, 2008 9:16 am

    ..And JP, I count plenty of racist groups over in Philly or in Central PA, but you don’t hear Murtha bashing the rest of the state!

    Furthermore, there’s not a state in the country that doesn’t have these psycho groups. That doesn’t give a politician the right to badmouth their constituents and call them names.

    WHY do we elect these people???

  7. JP
    October 21, 2008 9:26 am

    Just pointing out that Pa is a leader in this nation for hate groups per capita. Murtha is taking about his own constituency which is western PA that is why he is not mentioning Philly or eastern PA. Truth hurts sorry, I am not proud of it either. GO ahead and kill the messenger(Murtha) but truth is western PA is choked full of bigots.

  8. Jen
    October 21, 2008 9:31 am

    JP – I have to agree with you. It’s a shame but it’s still true. Sure, not everyone is completely racists, but I know that there is still a significant portion of Western Pennsylvanians who most definitely are. So are we angry at being called a name we don’t believe is applicable to us or are we angry because we’ve been outed?

  9. Joey
    October 21, 2008 9:46 am

    How funny…calling out Murtha for being honest.

    I’m not from PA…moved here for college in the late 80’s. I was shocked when I moved here…I did not really think that there were parts of the country (especially Yankee portions) that were still so overtly racist.

    And it hasn’t changed much today. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “You aren’t going to vote for that n*****, are you?”

  10. Jim
    October 21, 2008 9:54 am

    If Murtha made a mistake, it was to issue far too broad of a statement and not be more specific. So the result is, every person in the area who doesn’t think they are racist is offended. PittGirl even says it – “Rep. Murtha called us all a bunch of racists.” Truth be told, although he didn’t mean EVERYONE in the area was a racist, he’s right.

    I grew up in western PA, surrounded by Murtha’s district. ( See this page http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bb/Pa12_109.gif for detail.) My high school graduating class was almost 700 strong, and every single one of us was Caucasian. Does that make us racist? Of course not. But many of my classmates, and neighbors, were definitely qualified as racist; this I know firsthand.

    After high school, I spent 5 years working for US Steel in Braddock, where I worked closely with black and white men alike. Many of those black men were brought to the area in a rail car from Mississippi, during WW II. They told me that USS came down south and posted flyers looking for men to work. If you showed up at the train station and got in the boxcar, they rode you north to Pittsburgh and gave you a job in the mill.

    I asked one of them how he liked PA as opposed to Mississippi, thinking that surely he would be much happier living in the North, where racism was simply not present. To my surprise, his reply was, “In some ways, living in the south was easier, because at least there you knew who was racisit – they don’t hide it there. Here, it’s not so out in the open, but it’s definitely there.” So Murtha is right, sorry to say, and if his statement offends you, I think you need to look around at the world you really live in.

  11. WASPy Girl
    October 21, 2008 9:56 am

    Hi Pitt Girl. Love your blog. Need a dose of the ‘Burgh from Old Virginny.

    Here’s an interesting story about my prestigious and beloved alma mater, Ambridge High School. Are we living in western PA or Little Rock, Arkansas in the 1950s? Murtha, though he is what he is, is not completely off base.


  12. Miss Lee
    October 21, 2008 9:57 am

    JP –

    “Murtha is taking about his own constituency which is western PA that is why he is not mentioning Philly or eastern PA.”

    Murtha represents District 12, which is only a small part of Western PA. As an Allegheny county resident whom Murtha does not represent, I take real issue with him making such awful statements (published nationwide) about an entire third of the state – especially when he can only be held accountable by a fraction of the citizens he’s ridiculing.

  13. Katrina
    October 21, 2008 10:00 am

    As my brother said earlier this morning, “When you’ve been in office for 17 terms, you can kick your all of constituents in the crotch and they’ll still elect you in a landslide.” Racists are everywhere, guys, in and out of PA. That doesn’t mean it’s a smart move to call your constituents names during an election season. But THAT doesn’t mean that it will have any effect on whether he’ll be reelected.

    Welcome to the insanity that is politics and politicians!

  14. Kelley
    October 21, 2008 10:12 am

    Are there racist people in southwestern PA? Yes. Is southwestern PA systemically racist? No. I think that’s the problem. He’s just broadbrushed the region with a problem. There are racists everywhere, but their presence does not a racist region make. As soon as you issue a statement that paints the whole area racist, that, I think, is a problem. *His* problem.

  15. Bern
    October 21, 2008 10:12 am


    Not to get too granular but your premise that PA is a leader in hate groups per capita is simply wrong. I took a quick 5 minute sample of the data and found SC, NJ, FL, TX, MI and Oregon all have higher per capita rates. If I took the time to crunch all the numbers, my sense is that PA falls on the bottom half of all states.

    The sad point is Murtha is probably in the early to mid-stages of dementia. He has said jacka$$ things in past, it is just that the rate and level of obtuseness have been on the increase the last several years.

  16. JP
    October 21, 2008 10:14 am

    Sorry Miss Lee I forgot the ‘in’ let me do it again for you “Murtha is taking about his own constituency which is IN western PA that is why he is not mentioning Philly or eastern PA”That is what I meant to say,so his constituency is a encompassed by Western Pa but it does not Encompass Western Pa Make sense? or should I draw you a ven diagram ;-)?

  17. Miss Lee
    October 21, 2008 10:20 am


    You’re right – His constituency is IN Western PA, just like it is in Pennsylvania, or in the United States, for that matter. So unless you believe he’d be justified in calling ALL Pennsylvania citizens racist, or ALL United States citizens racist, I suggest you check the ven diagram yourself.

  18. toni
    October 21, 2008 10:21 am

    I don’t get Murtha’s re-election the same way I don’t get Deweese’s district not caring that he’s slime. Or wait, maybe I do…it dosen’t matter how much of a crook or how much you steal…as long as you bring home the pork.

  19. Pittsburgh Tom (in NJ)
    October 21, 2008 10:27 am

    I worked for a company that directly benefited from Murtha’s pork. My first or second day on the job, the whole office went to a ground-breaking of a new building made possible because of money that he brought into the area. Actual construction on the building wasn’t started until over a year later, but the photo-op was needed then because of the upcoming election.

    Anyway, Murtha will continue to be re-elected until he retires or dies cause anyone who takes his place will not have the seniority to get close to the amount of money he can bring to the district.

    This gives him the power to say things that are not politically correct. Agree or disagree with him, somethings need to be said, if just to get it out into the open so it can be challenged. People are thinking it. If it’s wrong, it can’t be corrected unless it is discussed openly. So him saying it hopefully causes healthy discussion, even if it might mar the areas image.

  20. BurghBoy
    October 21, 2008 10:31 am

    Is it just me or does murtha look like that cartoon dog… what’s his name…

  21. Pittsburgh Tom (in NJ)
    October 21, 2008 10:41 am

    As for the whole racist discussion, being originally from a town in Murtha’s district, I can say that there are a lot of people who have very little interaction with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. And often times, the interaction they do have are with people who are not the best representatives of their racial or ethic groups. So yeah, there are plenty of racist people in the area. Is racism more prevalent than other areas of the state or country, I can’t say. Will racism affect the election, probably, but I’m not sure it will be that big of a factor in Murtha’s district cause alot of those who wouldn’t vote for a black man probably wouldn’t vote democrat, anyway. Not with a pro-gun vietnam vet who is perceived as stronger on national security running as republican. Of course, that’s just a guess based on my time living in the area. I could be wrong.

  22. Pittsburgh Tom (in NJ)
    October 21, 2008 10:47 am

    In a related note, some guys at the bar I hang out at here in Jersey said in the primary season that they would never vote for “the black guy” are now saying they are going to vote democrat, but, as they put it, they are “voting for Biden”. They see that McCain is old, they don’t trust Palin (seems like it’s more cause of inexperience and less cause of sexism), and they really like Biden.

    So this year, the VP choices might have more effect on the election than most years.

  23. retiredguy
    October 21, 2008 10:50 am

    Must be talking about democrats, republicans voted for Lynn Swann.

  24. Gunnlino
    October 21, 2008 10:55 am

    The jackass may have funneled BILLIONS of dollars into his area, but where are the results of that infusion of money?

    The lack of progress in employment and visible prosperity in his district makes one wonder just who got the big bucks and what was done with it.

  25. Sofa King
    October 21, 2008 10:59 am

    JP, I like how you chose to address Ms. Lee’s statement, while completely ignoring Bern. You can’t just pick and choose facts and make statements on them without addressing the flaws in your own statements.

    PA is FAR from the leader in “Hate Groups per Capita,” to the extent that the statement is laughable. Even among states of comparable population, such as MI, OH, and NJ, PA’s numbers aren’t that out of line. By your logic, I would guess that South Dakota is a bastion of tolerance and racial civility, seeing as how there are 0 reported hate groups in that state.

  26. Nel
    October 21, 2008 11:23 am

    I am by no means a fan of Murtha, but
    I don’t think he meant to say every single person in Western PA is a racist.
    But there are a ton of them here.
    I worked in Civil Rights Div. of the FBI. The surrounding rural areas of Pittsburgh were breeding ground for the Klan.
    When I lost a case, they would send me a thank you note, as if I did it on purpose. Really, really creepy scary people.

  27. Big Ed
    October 21, 2008 11:34 am

    As the white father of two adopted children from Vietnam, believe me – racism exists here in Western PA. I’ve noticed it in ways and in places where I would have never noticed it before. I grew up in a pretty much white neighborhood, so “racist” comments really didn’t come up often because there wasn’t anybody to direct them towards. I suspect some of you who feel there is less inherent racism in this area might live in situations like that.

    My kids are in grade school, but they already have had hurtful comments from kids, and worse – from other parents. On a fieldtrip, one of the parents asked my son if he was good at math, “because all you Chinamen are good at math.” WTF? Imagine having to try to explain that one to him that evening. And BTW – China is very different from Vietnam, as are Korea and Japan.

    Bill Carvell (like him or hate him) once referred to Pennsylvania as “Two big Cities with Alabama in the middle”. I really don’t think he’s that far off. Yeah, Murtha could have said it more tactfully, but I guess 17 terms buys you the right to say what you want.

  28. Mrs. Pitsberger
    October 21, 2008 11:36 am

    PG, you’re really stirring shit up today!!

  29. Summer
    October 21, 2008 12:32 pm

    Try growing up in West Virginia, where, if people even realize it’s an entirely separate state from Virginia, they assume you think dental care and shoes are out and overalls over bare skin is in. And, of course, you must be some sort of hillbilly racist married to an immediate relative, barely able to read or add two and two.

    Even trying to have a sense of humor about it, having someone assume out-of-hand that you are something as repugnant as a racist stings, so I understand how some of you feel.

  30. Joe
    October 21, 2008 12:33 pm

    According to FBI data, in 2006, PA ranked 48th in Hate Crimes per Capita.

  31. Nel
    October 21, 2008 12:54 pm

    That is REPORTED crimes.
    I think we are talking about attitudes, not crimes.
    Most racists are too cowardly to ever do something about it. They talk a big game, that’s about it.

  32. JP
    October 21, 2008 1:08 pm

    Sofa King I am glad you liked/loved it . Actually I was at lunch so here is one for you. If you look at the SLC website you identify those hate groups in Western Pa. :I count 12. If you use population from Western pa counties you have a total population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. That gets you to about we’ll call it 313,075 citizens per group that is actually pretty high I agree it is not the top, but it is much worse than the state as a whole and does rank. above the national average per capita according to 2003 numbers only data I have.

  33. JamieO
    October 21, 2008 1:10 pm

    I think Murtha is right to a point. When I lived there, every black person who moved to Pittsburgh from somewhere else noted what a previous poster said – the racism is more covert. Several were from the South, and they felt that the South was less of a problem for them than Pittsburgh. That said, they found a lot of great people in the Burgh as well who were pretty friendly.

    Pittsburgh seems to have areas that are worse than others. Carrick seemed to be that way when I lived there (I played baseball with a black guy who was looking at an apartment there and the guy showing it to him said “I am not this way, but I will warn you the neighbors are not going to like a black guy moving on this street”).

    Outside of Pittsburgh, places like Westmoreland County are pretty bad – but there are pockets of stuff like that all through PA. I grew up in York, PA, and the York Daily Record recently ran a story on a potential Klan rally in Gettysburg. The posts in the comment section were about 70-30 pro Klan. Western PA has nothing on York County in that regard. Central PA where I currently live is of course about like western PA.

    I have been to several gatherings in Pittsburgh where I was waiting for the cross to be lit and was taken aback by some of the comments. The dark comedy at these events came from statements such as “I don’t know why these stupid n_____ keep whining about racism, they ain’t no racism no more.” Both from the statement and from the obvious cluelessness of those saying this that what they were saying was contradictory.

    I think some of it comes from Pittsburgh’s sort of insular neighborhood set up. By that I mean people staying in their area. I remember living in Mt. Washington and people would be shocked if I told them I was going to Ross Park Mall for something. It’s like I was crossing two oceans and ten mountain ranges. You live your life this way and you don’t get to be around a lot of different people.

    On the other hand, there are plenty, and I mean plenty, of fantastic people in Pittsburgh. The entire area is very friendly, and I love Pittsburgers – I was one for 16 years and I miss it. There is a lot of pride in the city. Like a giant family.

    But just like a family, sometimes certain members of the family do not like lights shining on certain realities.

  34. SesquipedalianProse
    October 21, 2008 1:19 pm

    I’m from Beaver County. Grew up in New Brighton. Mixed school with little problems. My sister went to the NB high for 2 years before we moved to Monaca. Monaca is 3 miles from NB. She brought a black friend over. The 2 of them walked around wear we moved. My sister said she never saw so many people peering out windows and acting frightened before, just because her friend is black.

    Wasn’t it…less than 10 years ago that the KKK had a klan rally in Mercer county?

  35. JP
    October 21, 2008 1:21 pm

    or you can look at it this way sofa king
    western pa ranks. 3.2 hate groups per million as opposed to 2.7 for pa not a huge difference but almost 20% higher does lend some lends some support to his arguement. Don’t you think?

  36. Christine
    October 21, 2008 1:23 pm

    What bothers me more than Murtha’s racist comment is the implication: If Obama wins, it’s because he’s God’s gift to America; if he loses, it’s because Americans (Western Pennsylvanians in particular) are a bunch of racists.

  37. TK
    October 21, 2008 1:27 pm

    Within the last ten years, the Klan held a rally at the City County Building.

    The protesters (of all races) outnumbered the participants by about 1,000 to 1.

  38. JP
    October 21, 2008 1:43 pm

    And sofa king if you compare western Pa to the rest of the state it comes out to something like 3.2 hate groups per million in Western Pa vs 2.4 for the rest of the state. That is like 33% higher

  39. InSewickley
    October 21, 2008 2:14 pm

    HE’s right though. Generally, western PA is filled with tons of racists. He should have never apologized.

  40. chrys
    October 21, 2008 2:20 pm

    So much for giving the impression that Pittsburgh is “moving forward”..

  41. unsatisfied
    October 21, 2008 2:31 pm

    I’ll put on the table that racism goes both ways.

    that’s true in western pa as it is anywhere else.

    what say you about that, mr. murtha?

  42. Role Reversal
    October 21, 2008 2:41 pm

    I love this whole discussion. I lived in Philadelphia for 5 years and I can’t even tell you how many times I was called “honkey”, “cracker” and “whitey”. There was even a protest group that sat on Broad St. every day and would yell that Whitey was responsible for all of the bad things in Philadelphia. Now, wouldn’t you consider that racist or do we have different standards?

    Simply put, there are ignorant people everywhere. Region doesn’t change that. Race doesn’t change that.

  43. JP
    October 21, 2008 2:56 pm

    True that, for years I lived on Brown and 21st just south of Girard and dealt with a lot of reverse racist crap. Does not change the fact that Western Pa especially in the back-assed hinterlands is chocked full of redneck bigots that would make Colonel Sanders blush. No not everybody, or even a majority, but enough to be able t feel a presence stronger than other parts of the country. I still like it here for the most part, but if you are going praise the good things about this region you should be able to own-up the bad. Or at least not get incensed if somebody points it out.

  44. Joe
    October 21, 2008 3:01 pm


    Can’t we assume that the REPORTING of hate crimes is consistent across states and any difference is random at best?

  45. Sofa King
    October 21, 2008 3:18 pm

    Sorry, JP, at the time I responded to your post, I hadn’t realized that Western PA had seceded from the rest of the state. Have the decided on what to name the new state? I prefer Yinzylvania, but that’s just me.

    By my count, 9 of the 33 groups in the state of PA on the SPLC site were in the immediate Pittsburgh area. 2 of those groups are black seperatist groups, which knocks the number of pro-white groups in the area down to 7. Thus, 27% of former state of PA’s hate groups exist in Yinzylvania, while only about 20% of the former state’s population resides there. With that in mind, I guess you are somewhat right, though I would say that comparing the actual membership numbers of such groups to the overall population would be a better indicator.

  46. Sofa King
    October 21, 2008 3:22 pm

    Btw, I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of racist people in SWPA, I just think that Murtha’s statement would be akin to Adrian Fenty saying “DC residents would never vote for John McCain because they’re all so ghetto.”

  47. Spicymeatball
    October 21, 2008 3:44 pm

    This man is a politician. With 17 terms to his name, he should know better than to a. paint with a broad brush and b. make asanine comments out of turn. Right or wrong, what he said did nothing but shove a rod through the hornets’ nest. You can crunch all of the numbers you want to about how many racists people may or may not exist in our area. The bottom line is he brought nothing to the table except a little extra national attention for himself.

    The only benefit to his comment is that we’re actually DISCUSSING race issues.

  48. JamieO
    October 21, 2008 3:46 pm

    One thing that I noticed living in PA is there are a fair amount of people proudly flying the Confederate flag.

    That never made sense to me. I mean, it’s like flying a Cincy Bengals flag in Pittsburgh – why would you be proud of both being a total loser, but also fly the flag in a place where you got your ass kicked?

  49. JP
    October 21, 2008 3:48 pm

    tTied to include all of western PA not just SWPA . But OK if we do it your way the per capita number will be even more biased towards my point. But I agree number of hate groups would not be a great predictor of racism. But it is more logical than just denying racist tendencies here because this is Pittsburgh damn it ! “someplace special” where everybody is extra-friendly to everybody just like in Mr Rogers The Neighborhood of Make-Believe. I hate that bullshit.