Race became an issue in the Democratic primary for governor today.
Farouk Shami, the millionaire hair care products maker who's running, said he doesn't find many white people willing to work, so he says he hires Hispanics and blacks instead.
He made the comments responding to a question about whether the state should crack down on employers hiring illegal immigrants.
He also said he, too, would not disavow the conspiracy theory that the U.S. government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina said on Thursday that she has questions whether the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, although she backpedaled from those remarks on Friday.
Shami declined at Monday's statewide televised debate to say if he backed a mandate on employers to use the E-Verify government database to check if new hires are in the country legally.
He was asked again during a taping of Inside Texas Politics.
Shami replied, “I find 80 percent of my employees at the factory are Hispanics. I don't find, you know, many white people really willing to work, you know, unfortunately.”
While still declining to answer the question, Shami said that at his Houston hair care products factory, Hispanics are vital to his business and the economy.
Asked to explain what he meant about not hiring many whites, he said they want special treatment. “A majority of the people are going to be Hispanic and African-American. You don't find white people who are willing to work in factories. And our history proves, you know, lots of time when they, you know, the white people come to work in a factory they either want to be supervisors or they want to be, you know, paid more than the average person. And unfortunately they exit.”
And then just a day after Medina, didn't reject the notion that the government was involved in the 9/11 attacks, Shami didn't either.
“I'm not sure. I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not really sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? It's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure.”
In Dallas, Shami's opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White rejected what he referred as Shami's stereotyping, “You can't judge a book by its cover and this should be a state where everybody has potential to be themselves.”
And on a Shami’s 9/11 government conspiracy response White said, “We know it was an Al-Qaeda plot, that's it.”
This is Shami’s first run for elective office, a race in which he pledged to spend up to $10 million of his own money just for the March 2 primary.
But so far, his campaign has not caught fire.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll out today shows democratic candidate Bill White with 50 percent support among likely Democratic primary voters, Shami with 11 percent and undecided at 30 percent.