State DFL Rep. Winkler apologizes for 'Uncle Thomas' tweet


State Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, says he is sorry for referring to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as “Uncle Thomas” in a tweet he sent Tuesday, which Winkler later deleted. MPR grabbed a photo of it:

Winkler had been criticizing Thomas and four other Supreme Court justices for their majority ruling on a case related to the Voting Rights Act.

Thomas is the lone black member of the nation's high court. The term "Uncle Tom" is rooted in the book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and is considered an offensive term for blacks who are eager to please whites.

The 37-year-old lawmaker spent part of the afternoon further tweeting on the matter, and responding to others:

MPR reported that Winkler later released this statement through the Minnesota House Communications office:

“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 Star Tribune asked the four-term lawmaker if he thinks the tweet could hurt his political career. He responded, "I don't know. I hope people judge people on the merits of what they do in public office and not on the firestorm of a term that is used hastily but with no malintent.”

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