Democrat Farouk Shami on Friday became the second gubernatorial candidate in two days to say it's unclear whether the U.S. government was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Meanwhile, Republican Debra Medina, reeling from her own remarks that questioned the government's involvement in the attacks, on Friday blamed the ensuing firestorm on a "coordinated attack" that she speculated came from the campaigns of her better-known GOP rivals.
Shami's comments came during an interview on Dallas-Fort Worth's WFAA-TV in which the Houston businessman also said that most of his factory workers are Hispanic because "you don't find white people who are willing to work in factories."
When a reporter told Shami he wanted to ask him the same question Medina was asked — whether the U.S. government was involved in the attacks — Shami responded:
"I'm not sure. I am not going to really judge or answer about something I'm not sure about. But the rumors are there that there was a conspiracy. True or not? You know, it's hard to believe, you know, what happened. It's really hard to comprehend what happened. Maybe. I'm not sure."
He compared the situation to lingering questions in some quarters about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"We still don't know who killed John F. Kennedy, who's behind it.... Will we ever find the truth about 9/11?" Shami said.
Shami's comments on race came when reporter Brad Watson asked him why he said during the debate Monday with Democrat Bill White that "without Mexicans, it would be like a day without sunshine in our state." Shami responded by talking about his own employees. Historically, he said, when "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."
Medina, meanwhile, said that "the political games we saw beginning to be played yesterday serve nothing but a diversion." She predicted "more of this" in her race against Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP gubernatorial nomination March 2. She said there are no "high-profile kinds of scandals in my life that really are going to get people something to chew on. So they're going to have to make some things up."
Her comments came during a news conference in Houston, which she denied was an effort at damage control. "No. This is continuing doing what we've been doing, campaigning hard for months," she said.
In response to a question Thursday from nationally syndicated radio talk show host Glenn Beck, Medina said there were "some very good arguments" that the U.S. was involved in the 2001 attacks that took down the World Trade Center and that killed about 3,000 people.
"I think the American people have not seen all of the evidence there, so I have not taken a position on that," she said.
Medina later in the day released a statement saying she didn't believe the government played a role in the attacks, but the damage had been done.
Hutchison campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said Medina's allegation that Beck's question was somehow part of a coordinated effort from her political rivals is "simply not true," a comment echoed by Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner.
"It appears she's trying to spread blame," Miner said.
The profile of the libertarian-leaning nurse from Wharton, about 50 miles southwest of Houston, has risen in recent weeks after her appearance in two televised debates at which she assumed the role of a voice of reason while her two better-known rivals squabbled.
"I'm doing some damage," Medina said. "I'm over the target. They know I'm over the target. And we're heading up pretty quick, and this is a concerted damage control effort maybe on their part to make sure we get her out of the way."
Contains material from Corrie Mac-Laggan and The Associated Press.
Democrat Shami also raises doubts on 9/11 attacks