Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry faces new questions over his suitability to go head-to-head with Barack Obama next November, after it was claimed his family hunting spot was known by a racist nickname.
The one black candidate in the Republican field, Herman Cain, yesterday called Mr Perry "insensitive" for using a camp known locally as "Niggerhead". And the Texas governor was last night fighting claims he lied about when exactly his family painted over the sign with that name, which adorned a rock at the entrance to the site when the Perry family first leased it in 1983.
Seven people who had visited the site on hunting trips with Mr Perry told The Washington Post that "Niggerhead" was still written on the rock well into his political career. That contradicted Mr Perry, who told the paper he asked his father to paint over it in 1983 or 1984.
If he was hoping the dispute would not blow up into an issue in the Republican race, Mr Perry was disabused by Mr Cain's appearance on a television show yesterday. Mr Cain, a former pizza chain boss who has become a darling of the Tea party movement, questioned his opponent's judgment in using a site whose name "inspires negativity". He said: "Since Governor Perry's been going there for years to hunt, he has shown a lack of sensitivity for a long time. How long ago was it painted over?"
Mr Perry used the 1,070-acre hunting camp near the Brazos River to host his donors and supporters as he launched his career in Texas politics. He joined his father on the lease to the site in 1997, after it had been in the family for over 10 years.
The name Niggerhead was still faintly visible through the white paint as recently as the summer, visitors said. Mr Perry told The Washington Post the term was an "offensive name that has no place in the modern world".
The issue adds to concerns over his electability, particularly since he will be facing the country's first black president. Mr Perry once looked a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, but he has lost support on the right because of his support for the education of illegal immigrants' children and lost his front-runner status after a poor performance in debates.