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      03-23-2010, 10:34 PM   #1

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Buckwheat, the Little Rascal from the 1920s series of film shorts called "Our Gang," is now center stage in a foot-in-mouth moment for a South Florida candidate for the U.S. Congress.

Corey Poitier, who is running for U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek's seat, delivered a passionate speech against the health care reform bill Monday night to Broward County Republicans. During the speech, Poitier called President Barack Obama "Buckwheat."

"I wasn't meaning him any harm. Maybe it was a little insensitive," Poitier said. "It's a term that my brother and I use. It was kind of a way of saying, 'dummy,' like when I say to my brother, 'Hey, Buckwheat, cut that out.' That's what it was."

Poitier admitted that the comment was not very respectful, but he insisted it was not racial.

"Wouldn't you be a bit even more sensitive to racial terms or even the perception of a racial term because you are a black man?" Local 10's Glenna Milberg asked.

"I believe that we have become so racially sensitive that anything can be set off," Poitier said.

Students in Poitier's government class at North Miami Beach Senior High School invoked his First Amendment right to free speech on Tuesday.

"Everyone says what they want to say," said senior Donna Saincelaire.

Poitier is the only Republican so far in the race for District 17, where 57 percent of constituents are black and where nine out of 10 voters cast their votes for Obama.

"You call yourself a statesman. Would you call that comment statesmanlike behavior?" Milberg asked.

"A statesman is supposed to think of today, tomorrow and the future. I'm a human being. I am prone to make mistakes. This one was a mistake," Poitier said.

Mr. Poitier