Minn. Rep. Under Fire for 'Uncle Thomas' Tweet, Apologizes

Updated: 06/26/2013 12:26 PM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart



Rep. Winkler tweet
Rep. Winkler tweet

Rep. Winkler tweets apology
Rep. Winkler tweets apology

A Democratic legislator from Minnesota swiftly apologized Tuesday for a tweet he sent that referred to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as "Uncle Thomas" following a major ruling on the nation's landmark voting rights law.
    
Thomas, who is black, was part of a 5-4 majority that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act meant to deter racial discrimination in elections. The ruling makes it tougher for federal officials to prevent states and localities, primarily in the South, from adopting policies that add barriers to voting.
    
In response, state Rep. Ryan Winkler tweeted: "#SCOTUS VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas. Marriage decision may blur Court's backsliding."

Click here for what some people are saying about the tweet.
    
"Uncle Tom" is a connotation to describe someone subservient to another and has its roots in Harriett Beecher Stowe's pre-Civil War novel about slavery, "Uncle Tom's Cabin." The latter part of the tweet refers to the high court's expected decision on gay marriage.
    
Winkler deleted the tweet and later told The Associated Press that he was trying to make a point about institutional racism resulting from the ruling.
    
"I used a term that was too hot for the issue, but I didn't intend for it to be derogatory," Winkler said.
    
Winkler, of Golden Valley, had been weighing a run for Minnesota secretary of state, the office that oversees elections. He said he ruled that out several days ago but hadn't announced it.
    
The fourth-term lawmaker represents a district that covers western Minneapolis suburbs and is an attorney. He is known for rhetorical clashes with Republicans while on the House floor and on Twitter.

Chris Fields, secretary of the Minnesota Republican Party, said Winkler's comments were "beyond the pale" and his apology wasn't enough. "If he had any personal integrity, he'd resign," said Fields, who is black.

State Rep. Ryan Winkler issued the following statement:

“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.

In expressing that disappointment on twitter, I hastily used a loaded term that is offensive to many. My words were inappropriate and I apologize. The implications of this Supreme Court decision are serious for our state and country and I regret that my comments have distracted from the serious dialogue we must have going forward to ensure racial discrimination has no place in our election system.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.