Ford called Butz into his office on Oct. 1 and gave the Cabinet officer a ``severe reprimand,'' according to White House Press Secretary Ron Nessen. Later that day, Butz apologized on television for ``an unfortunate choice of language,'' though he insisted he had only repeated a comment made decades earlier by a ward politician.
`Price I Pay'
Soon Carter and a chorus of Republicans, including Ford's running mate, Robert Dole, joined the fray. Carter said he wouldn't ``permit that kind of blatant racism'' in his administration. Walter Mondale, Carter's running mate, called for Ford to fire Butz for using ``despicable racial slurs.''
On Oct. 3, Butz appeared in the White House and resigned. He denied he was a racist, saying his resignation ``is the price I pay for a gross indiscretion in a private conversation.''More about the Butz Agriculture Legacy...
Earl Butz, the Noble County native who was secretary of agriculture for two presidents but lost his job after telling a vulgar racist joke, died Saturday at his son’s home in Washington. He was 98.
Butz was a high-ranking administrator at Purdue University and its former dean of agriculture when he was appointed by President Nixon in 1971 to head the Agriculture Department. He left his mark on Washington by nudging farm policy toward a more free-market approach and by wielding his earthy sense of humor.
“He was one of the most vigorous and controversial (agriculture) secretaries of all time,” said James Webster, editor of the Webster Agricultural Letter.
Butz encouraged farmers to plant fence row to fence row and export more of their crops. But he was criticized by Congress in 1972 for not preventing the Soviet Union’s secret purchase of 25 percent of the U.S. wheat crop and much of that year’s corn and soybean production. The buy-up resulted in a domestic food shortage.
Butz fostered the development of large farms, which farmers created by taking out huge bank loans. Analysts have said that practice was responsible for the thousands of smaller farms that were foreclosed upon during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s.