Democratic state Rep. Ryan Winkler of Minnesota has (kind of) apologized after referring to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as "Uncle Thomas" on Twitter in a fit of pique over the court's decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act.
Though the Golden Valley representative has since deleted the tweet, it reportedly read: "#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court's backsliding." [Emphasis added]
An image of the message was archived by the social media tool Topsy:
(Photo via Twitchy)
Winkler originally appeared to defend his racist comments, tweeting: "I didn't think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues."
He later added: "But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize," and "Deleted Tweet causing offense regarding Justice Thomas. I apologize for it, but believe VRA decision does abet racism."
As the outrage poured in, the politician who graduated with a degree in history from Harvard University claimed he didn't know what "Uncle Tom" really means.
"I did not understand 'Uncle Tom' as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however," he tweeted.
According to Minnesota's Star Tribune, Winkler, currently serving his fourth term, once had aspirations to run for Secretary of State. He now says he will no longer pursue that path, but that he made the decision before the "Uncle Thomas" controversy.
"I intended to point out the fact that Justice Thomas had turned his back on African-American civil rights. I did not intend it as a racially derogatory term and I probably reacted too hastily in using a word that is very loaded," he told the paper, claiming he thought the word meant something more along the lines of "turncoat."
"I guess my judgment is way off," Winkler concluded, adding that he hopes he will be judged on the "merits" of his work rather than his recent comments.