By Paula Dwyer

At the Republican presidential debate last night, Texas Governor Rick Perry twice referred to Herman Cain, the only black candidate on the Las Vegas stage, as "brother." That raised a lot of eyebrows and burned up the social media channels. Some said they found the use of the word to be racist, and that it made them cringe.

Comedian @KathyGriffin wrote on her twitter feed: "I know! Awkward. I'm waiting 4 Perry 2 say "jive turkey".

Others gave him the benefit of the doubt and said calling someone "brother" in Texas is akin to calling him "pardner."

Ray Sullivan, a Perry spokesman, said on CNN this morning that the governor was just being friendly. "He is a friendly fellow. He uses that kind of language. And he views all those folks on stage as colleagues, as fellow Republicans, and he speaks accordingly," Sullivan said.

Sullivan insisted that Perry also referred to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney the same way, but a review of the broadcast and transcript by CNN employees couldn't find any such references. In fact, Perry referred to Romney as "sir."

Here's the Perry quote: “Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don’t need to have a big analysis to figure this thing out,” Perry said. “At the end of the week, I’m going to be laying out a plan that clearly -- I’ll bump plans with you, brother, and we’ll see who has the best idea about how you get this country working again.”

So, was Perry being condescending in calling Cain "brother?" Or was he being friendly? Tell us what you think.

(Paula Dwyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Oct/19/2011 19:37 GMT