It was a casual remark made Wednesday by Alaska's only congressman, 79-year-old Don Young, during a radio interview.
"My father had a ranch. We used to have 50 to 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," Young said.
His use of the pejorative term took off on Spanish language television.
There was a sharp reaction that came from republicans' leadership who quickly distanced themselves from the slur, a term that refers to Mexican migrants who've crossed the border illegally.
Speaker John Boehner called the comments "...beneath the dignity of the office he holds."
Senator John McCain tweeted the remarks "...have no place in our party or the nation's discourse."
By late Friday, Young apologized for his words.
Ironically, congressional popularity had gained sharply among Hispanics prior to the racial slur. 56 percent approved according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, likely reflecting the recent push for immigration reform.
That favorability may now be in jeopardy.
Young's blunder follows a whole host of off-putting remarks from former senator Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comment to Mitt Romney's "47 percent."
Just last week, in an effort to improve its prospects for the future, the GOP made public a report detailing the party's failure to win in 2012.
Sen. Rand Paul (R) Kentucky said, "The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered."
The stark reassessment calls for the party to broaden its appeal, particularly to women and minorities. This comment, perhaps, is a reflection of moving two steps forward and then one step backward.