Mitt Romney's reference to his troubled Big Dig investment as a "tar baby" has become something of a mess in and of itself for the MA governor. He apologized for the remark, made at a fundraiser with Iowa Republicans, pleading ignorance of the slur.
"The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can," Romney said of the tunnel project he took over after a fatal ceiling collapse. White House spokesman Tony Snow was also criticized for use of the term last May.
Dating back to 19th c. Uncle Remus stories, in which Br'er Rabbit is trapped by a doll made of tar, the term has been used both to describe a sticky mess and as a racial epithet. Some say it "is a totally inappropriate phrase in the 21st century."