Harold Ford Jr., father reject racial comments by family members - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Harold Ford Jr., father reject racial comments by family members

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. and his father say they don't agree with racially charged comments made by a family member seeking to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, Memphis' first white congressman in over three decades.

Jake Ford filed last Thursday to run again for the seat in the 9th Congressional District as an independent. He lost to Cohen in 2006.

In remarks published Friday in The Commercial Appeal, he said Tennessee deserves to have at least one black congressman.

Democrats Harold Ford Jr. and Harold Ford Sr., who held the congressional seat in succession for a combined 32 years before Ford Jr. relinquished it in 2006, called the newspaper the next day after reading an article and editorial about the comments.

Jake and Harold Ford Jr. are the sons of Harold Ford Sr. Ford Jr. called his brother's comments "an insult" and he and his father said Jake Ford should publicly apologize.

While filing his qualifying paperwork Thursday, Jake Ford and brother Isaac Ford rehashed a theme from the 2006 race - that Cohen isn't fit to hold the seat because he's white.

"Jake Ford is a black candidate, it's a black district and we need black representation," said Isaac Ford, who is also a son to Ford Sr.

Jake Ford said Saturday that some of the published comments may have been taken out of context and that they were not meant to be racially disparaging.

"My brother and I were not saying we have to have a black representative in this district. We said in the state of Tennessee, the western district was created as a predominantly black district so we would have black representation in Congress," he said.

"Everyone makes it seem like I'm creating the race issue. As for my dad and my brother, they're not running for Congress. I am."

However, Ford Sr. said that even if his sons' statements were taken out of context, "that type of message going out is not good for the city or the 9th District."

"The article and editorial disturbed me. He certainly does not speak for me, and that's not representative of this family," Ford Sr. said.

Added Ford Jr.: "I want to make clear my brothers' comments are not mine. I reject them. ... I don't believe any candidate's fitness for office should be measured or determined by race or gender."

Ford Jr. also said he had encouraged his brother not to run for the seat. When asked why, he said, "A variety of reasons," but declined to elaborate.

"That's not true," Jake Ford said later.

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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