Rep. Ryan Winkler has issued an apology for an incendiary comment he made on Twitter in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act.
“VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas,” wrote Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, shortly after the ruling striking down a key provision of the federal civil rights law was released.
The reference was to Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, who joined with the four other conservative justices on the ruling. Winkler drew instant attack for the racially tinged remark, which alludes to the title character of Harret Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The phrase Uncle Tom has subsequently been used as an epithet for black people who purportedly betray their own self interest in order to ingratiate themselves to whites.
“So @RepRyanWinkler didn’t know ‘Uncle Tom’ was a racist slur,” wrote conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg on Twitter. “Good to know deep ignorance of American culture won’t hold politicians back.”
“@RepRyanWinkler Not just a bigot, but a lying liar bigot,” wrote conservative commentator Michelle Malkin on Twitter.
The controversy was even picked up by The Drudge Report.
Winkler initially defended his comment. “I didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues,” he wrote on Twitter.
But Winkler subsequently deleted the “Uncle Thomas” Tweet and issued an apology. “I was very disappointed today in the Supreme Court decision to roll back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act because I believe the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important steps our nation has taken to eliminate racial discrimination,” Winkler said in a statement. “In expressing that disappointment on Twitter, I hastily used a loaded term that is offensive to many. My words were inappropriate and I apologize.”