Politics & Government

Peck apologizes on CNN; Dems call for action

TOPEKA — Democrats continued their call Friday for Rep. Virgil Peck to resign amid international coverage of his comment this week suggesting that illegal immigrants might be hunted like feral hogs.

CNN broadcast Peck's apology Thursday.

"I'm Virgil Peck, and on Monday, I made an inappropriate comment," Peck told CNN. "For that, I'm sorry, and I apologize to anyone that I offended with my inappropriate comment. I'll be more careful with my words in the future."

Peck, R-Tyro, also apologized in a statement he handed out in the House on Tuesday. He declined to comment further Friday.

Democrats said they think Peck should resign, but also called for the House Republican leadership to strip Peck of his leadership duties. He is chairman of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee.

At a news conference Friday, House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, called Peck's comment "a disgrace to the Legislature" that could influence the world's opinion of Kansas.

Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City, said Peck's comment "cut like a dagger" to Hispanic citizens of Kansas.

"This type of vitriolic rhetoric has no place in the House," he said. "He must be made aware that we as elected officials are held to a higher standard and that what we say resonates not only in this state, but in this case worldwide."

Ruiz expressed disappointment that three Hispanic members of the House stood with Peck during the CNN interview as a show of support. The three — all Republicans — were Rep. Mario Goico of Wichita, Rep. Reynaldo Mesa of Garden City and Rep. Ramon Gonzalez of Perry.

Goico expressed his displeasure with Peck's comment but said he hoped some good would come from the dialogue.

"It's regrettable that it was said," Goico said. "It was a mistake in a weak moment. He has apologized.

"When we are in committee or on the floor, we have to behave with decorum and dignity. I don't think a joke is ever appropriate."

CNN correspondent Gustavo Valdes said Peck's comment "obviously created a reaction in Washington right away. That shows there's an interest in this story beyond Kansas."

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he thinks House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, should take strong action against Peck.

"He banned a (union) lobbyist recently for an outburst in the House gallery, calling it the most disrespectful display he's ever seen in the House," Hensley said, but hasn't done anything about Peck's comment.

The Kansas Democratic Party said in a statement that it has collected more than 900 signatures calling for Peck to resign or face disciplinary action.

According to the party, those joining the drive include Democratic Party state chairwoman Joan Wagnon, the House Democratic leadership, the National Council of La Raza, Somos Republicans, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Latino Information Network of Kansas.